After dropping their season opener in extra innings at Madison Central, the Somerset Lady Jumper softball team had been the hottest team in the 12th Region winning six games in a row.
David Dorsey’s club took that six-game winning streak into Tuesday afternoon’s arch-rival clash against an equally hot Southwestern club.
Jim Woodall’s Lady Warriors came into the contest red-hot as well with a 7-1 mark, making Tuesday’s matchup between these two rivals a meeting between the top two clubs in the 12th Region.
And, both teams certainly lived up to the pregame hype in this affair.
Jordan Lafavers and Sydney Fourman hooked up in a classic pitcher’s duel, with Fourman and the homestanding Lady Warriors holding a 2-1 advantage over Somerset through six innings of play.
However — as has been the case for much of the year — Somerset found a way to win at crunch time.
After Raegan Henderson and Lafavers reached base safely to open the top of the seventh frame, freshman Hailey Ellison drilled a Fourman pitch to deep center field for a three-run blast, and that would be the difference, giving Somerset a thrilling and heart-pounding, 4-2 victory over the homestanding Lady Warriors in an instant classic.
“Jordan has been getting better and better every night she goes out there,” stated a very happy coach Dorsey, after his team ran its winning streak to seven games in a row.
“She had 12 strikeouts tonight and threw the ball exceptionally well,” stated the Somerset coach. “I go out every game and give her the ball and just sit back and enjoy the ride. She will keep us in most ballgames, and that’s exactly what she did tonight. She kept us in this thing until we could find a way to break through there in our last at bat.”
Coming into Tuesday’s game at Southwestern, both the Lady Warriors and Lady Jumpers were two of the most prolific offensive teams inside the region.
Somerset had scored 53 runs over its first seven games of the season, and had tallied 34 runs in its last three outings before Tuesday’s contest.
Southwestern meanwhile had been scoring in bunches as well, plating 62 runs in its first eight games of the year, however on Tuesday with a pair of aces on the mound in Lafavers and Fourman, runs were at a big-time premium for both clubs.
Southwestern put Lafavers and Somerset in a hole early on, by plating a run in the home half of the first inning thanks to a clutch, two-out RBI single off the bat of Destiny Molden.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Lady Warrior catcher worked her magic again with two out, as Molden’s second RBI hit of the day gave Southwestern a 2-1 lead over Somerset.
Somerset’s lone run of the day off of Fourman up to that point in the contest came in the fourth inning, thanks to an RBI double off the bat of Lafavers, that at that time knotted things up at 1-1.
Molden’s second RBI hit of the day had put the Lady Warriors on top 2-1, setting the stage for Ellison’s seventh inning heroics, but coach Woodall pointed out afterwards that three-run shot by the Somerset youngster in the seventh is not what cost his club a victory.
“I don’t want to take anything at all away from Somerset, because they were the better team tonight,” pointed out Woodall.
“They outhit us, they outplayed us, and that’s the bottom line,” continued the Southwestern coach. “I don’t think the three-run shot there in the seventh got us beat or was the difference in the game. What cost us tonight was striking out 12 times and not putting the ball in play when we had runners on the bases and had opportunities to put runs on the board. We had some awful at bats tonight, and we weren’t disciplined at the plate. Again, not taking anything at all away from Jordan (Lafavers). We were not disciplined and we were not focused at the plate, and it cost us.”
Somerset trailed this one by that 2-1 margin until Somerset came off the mat in the seventh frame.
Raegan Henderson got the rally ignited for the Lady Jumpers by leading off with a laser to shortstop for an infield hit, followed by a fielder’s choice by Lafavers.
With runners at first and second and nobody out, Ellison sent a Fourman pitch to deep center for a three-run blast, and just like that Somerset had a 4-2 lead.
“Hailey’s been nothing but a blessing for us, and she’s hit the ball for us all year,” remarked Dorsey.
“She’s now had five home runs and she’s got the job done for us every time we’ve needed her to come through,” added the Lady Jumper coach. “This was a huge win for us, but Jim (Woodall) and I talked earlier today. We didn’t want to make this game bigger than it is. It’s still early — it’s the first of April and there’s a lot of softball yet to be played. Hopefully, we will meet again much later in the year when this game means a whole bunch more for both of us.”
In the home half of the seventh inning, Southwestern had a golden opportunity for a tie or even a win, but Lafavers got off the hook to nail down the victory instead for the Lady Jumpers.
Shantelle Woodall led things off by getting hit by a pitch from Lafavers, and she would advance all the way to third base thanks to a base hit to right field by Fourman.
After Fourman swiped second base, the Lady Warriors — down by that 4-2 margin — had two runners in scoring position at second and third base with no one out, but couldn’t come up with that much-needed hit.
Lafavers recorded back to back strikeouts, retiring Molden and Angel Beasley, and then nailed down the victory by ending the game by getting Hope Bruner on a popup on the infield.
“When you strike out 12 times against a good team like Somerset you’re going to get beat — it’s just that simple,” pointed out coach Woodall.
“There in the seventh inning, we’ve got runners at second and third and nobody out, with our four, five, and six hitters coming up to the plate,” Woodall lamented. “You know, you’ve got a chance to maybe win the game right there. The meat of your order coming up, and you’ve got two strikeouts and a popup, and that’s just a sad performance at the plate.”
Southwestern with the loss fell to 7-2 on the season and will return home on Friday evening to host Clinton County at 6 p.m.
Today, the Lady Warriors will take on their other arch rival — Pulaski County — on the road beginning at 6 p.m.
Somerset meanwhile — 7-1 on the year — will put its seven-game winning streak on the line today on the road at McCreary Central in a game slated to get underway at 6 p.m.
SHS — 0 0 0 1 0 0 3 — 4 7 0
SW — 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 — 2 7 1
DOUBLES — (SHS) Lafavers.
HOME RUNS — (SHS) Ellison
RBI — (SHS) Ellison 3, R. Henderson. (SW) Molden 2.
WP — Lafavers
LP — Fourman