FRANKLIN FURNACE — Perhaps the Green Bobcats did want to be done earlier on Monday.
However, by going all seven innings against visiting Western in their Division IV softball sectional semifinal, the Bobcats bettered themselves with Gracie Daniels’ pitching performance.
The Bobcats accounted for all nine of their runs in two early innings of Monday’s matchup, amassing three unearned markers in the opening stanza and six more earned points in the third — en route to rolling the Indians 9-1 at Green’s Little League fields.
Western, with only 10 players on Monday and the 18th-seeded squad struggling to finish the season, went up 1-0 off Daniels in its initial at-bat.
But the 15th-seeded and now 7-9 Bobcats quickly answered with three counters —then tacked on six more tallies in the third, after 11 batters went to the plate for the commanding 9-1 advantage.
From there, the only question was whether Western would push Green to all seven innings, and to the Indians’ credit, they did.
But Daniels and the Bobcat defense did their parts, not making a single error behind Daniels —who allowed just the first-inning earned run on the combination of two singles sandwiched around hitting Morgan Whitley with a pitch and a Bailey Elliott walk.
Daniels induced the final two first-inning outs with the bases loaded, and from there, only four Indians faced Daniels during innings two, three, five and six.
She retired the side 1-2-3 in the fourth and seventh, tossing a complete-game four-hit gem which included only three walks with five strikeouts.
In fact, the only baserunners Daniels allowed following the first frame were a Faith Stone leadoff walk in the second, a Morgan Whitley leadoff single in the third, a Lauren Ware one-out double in the fifth, and finally a Sophia Rhoads tw0-out walk in the sixth.
So yeah, it’s like the Bobcats bettered themselves by going the distance with Western —as opposed to their first two Southern Ohio Conference Division I meetings, which were were at least 10-run rule decisions.
Monday’s matinee spanned exactly an hour-and-a-half.
“We would have liked to have been able to be out of here today in five (innings), but we were able to keep it under control and handle things the way we needed to. I’m happy with the way we responded as the girls had a long weekend with prom on Friday and not practicing or playing since Wednesday,” said Green coach Shane Jenkins. “Gracie (Daniels) anchored us there, shutting them down and keeping them off-balance by working them inside. Then we strung some hits together when we needed to, and answered right back after they went up 1-0. Even when they loaded the bases up in the first, there was never a sense of a panic urgency. We’ve been in this situation so many times over the last two years. We’ve got a veteran crew with seven seniors, six actually playing with one out. We beat them twice by 10 runs or more in the regular season, but we didn’t want them to catch momentum or our girls taking this game lightly. But once Gracie got rolling and was locating and hitting her spots for the most part, we knew they would have trouble scraping hits together because we do play pretty decent defense.”
Daniels faced 29 total Indians, seven of which were in the first, as Western did initially load the bases with one out — by Ware singling to left, Whitley getting hit and Elliott drawing a walk.
A Hayleigh Thompson infield single scored the pitcher Ware, but Daniels didn’t allow any more damage —by inducing Kiela Gullett to ground into a bases-loaded 5-2 fielder’s choice, followed by a strikeout looking against Rhoads.
Daniels stranded single runners in her four-faced batters innings —Stone at third in the second, Whitley at second in the third, Ware at second in the fifth, and Rhoads at first in the sixth.
Jenkins praised Daniels’ dominance, and working with her senior battery mate — catcher Kailyn Neal.
“Gracie and Kailyn (Neal) are such a good battery together, pitching and catching together since they were in the fifth grade,” said the coach. “A lot of times, they don’t need me to talk. Those two know what they are doing out there, more than I can do for them.”
As for what Green could do for Daniels, as opposed to what “Brown and UPS can do for you”, they put the ball in play against Ware —and found ways to get on base and come across.
In the first, Adriah Barber reached on an error on a bunt, advanced on a wild pitch and a sacrifice bunt by Daniels — and then scored on Kasey Kimbler’s single to center.
Emily Brady and Ryleigh McDavid singled back-to-back to follow Kimbler, with Kimbler coming home on McDavid’s RBI-basehit.
Brady then scored on Neal’s sacrifice fly, making it 3-1 — and putting the Bobcats back in command.
In the third, Green —with one out —drew walks in the inning by Neal and Brady, sandwiched around Camryn Pearson being hit by a pitch and Kyleigh McIntire walking to load the bases.
Heaven Mattingly drew a walk to score the first run — as Barber with a two-run single, Daniels with a two-run double, and Kimbler with a run-scoring single accounted for the other five.
Kimbler finished 2-for-3 with an intentional walk in the second, Barber went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and was plunked in the fourth, and Mattingly managed the Bobcats’ final basehit in the seventh.
The Bobcats doubled up the Indians in hits, 8-4.
“We were able to string some hits together, and Kasey Kimbler has been intentionally walked now five times this season. Adriah Barber drops timely bunts down, beats them down the line, and that sets us up,” said Jenkins. “Adriah gets on first and gets over, and Kasey and our other hitters are able to drive runners in as we go down the lineup.”
And now, down the line means a Division IV sectional championship tilt on Wednesday (May 11) with second-seeded Clay — which easily swept Green in their SOC I regular-season series.
But, as they say, it’s difficult to defeat the same team three times in one year — which Jenkins says his Bobcats will play that proverbial trump card.
First pitch is set for 5 p.m. at Carol Vice Memorial Field in Rubyville, which is home to the Panthers.
“The first two games with Clay were rough, but we’re telling our girls it’s hard to beat someone three times. We’ve seen (Clay pitcher) Preslee Lutz twice now, and we hope we’re ready for her. If we make the routine plays and make 21 routine outs, that will keep us in ballgames,” said Jenkins. “When we’ve done that, we’ve shown at times we can hang with about anybody until we start making mistakes and letting teams string stuff together. We know Clay is a great team with great pitching and is well-coached, but we’re not going there playing to lose.”
* * *
Western 100 000 0 — 1 4 5
Green 306 000 X —9 8 0
WHS: Lauren Ware 6IP, 9R, 6ER, 8H, 2HB, 4BB, 1IBB, 7K, 37BF
GHS: Gracie Daniels 7IP, 1R, 1ER, 4H, 1HB, 3BB, 0IBB, 5K, 29BF
W — Gracie Daniels ; L — Lauren Ware
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved