By TREY WILLIAMS
Dealing rival Daniel Boone its first Big Seven Conference defeat in dramatic comeback fashion last week provided a thrill second to none thus far for David Crockett’s softball team, but a home win Thursday against Science Hill would produce a first-rate result.
Crockett (5-1, 17-5) and Science Hill (5-1, 20-7) entered Wednesday tied for first place. The Pioneers’ lone league loss was a 2-1 setback at Science Hill on March 19, and the Pioneers led 1-0 before Kasey Bennett spoiled Kara Weems’ shutout with a one-out, walk-off home run.
“We pitched to Kasey Bennett,” Crockett coach Carla Weems said. “She’s a really good hitter and Kara threw her way outside and she went and got it. Our girls are really excited to play Science Hill, because they feel like they should’ve won that game and didn’t finish it.”
Indeed, Crockett had the bases loaded in the top of the seventh with veteran hitters Sydney Fox, Reagan Miller and Lenzie Jenkins coming up.
“We go to Science Hill and it always seems like something happens in the last few innings and we don’t pull through,” Weems said. “We’ve had the bases loaded several times and weren’t able to come through. We had the bases loaded in the top of the seventh with three freshmen and we had Sydney, Reagan and Lenzie – my three seniors – coming up with no outs. And we didn’t score. It was just one of those things.”
It was Crockett that snatched victory from defeat at home against Boone on April 11. The Pioneers trailed 5-0 in the bottom of the fourth, but answered with a run in the fourth and six in the fifth for a 7-5 victory.
Weems, who went the distance on the mound for the victory, was beginning to lose faith while Boone created the five-run deficit that included a two-run home run from Nickolette Ferguson. But she settled down on the mound and delivered a one-out two-run single during the decisive six-run frame — which included a game-tying RBI single from Kat Pfiefer and a two-run, two-out single from Maddie Roy that capped the game’s scoring.
“Maddie had hit the ball hard all day long,” Carla Weems said. “So I was excited for her. Every time she came up I was expecting her to get a hit because she’d just hit it so well.”
Erasing a five-run deficit against an archrival is about as good as it gets.
“It was Boone and we were down 5-nothing and thought that it was over,” Kara Weems said. “But we rallied behind each other and we finally got one hit. Then we kept cheering and chanting and it obviously boosted us to get more hits and runs. … It was all a blur after we won. I was excited.”
Weems, a junior, is 12-2 with a 1.28 ERA. She’s added an offspeed curveball this year to complement her low-60s velocity. She no-hit Dobyns-Bennett last week after no-hitting Cherokee earlier in the season.
“She was really good against D-B,” Carla Weems said. “She was working the corners and getting those close calls that she gets a lot of times. Also, D-B is more of a go-up-there-and-try-to-hit-the-ball kind of team. She threw it close enough to ‘em where they were swinging, whereas Boone wasn’t swinging at her pitches that might be a little bit outside.”
Unlike last season, Weems doesn’t have to shoulder the entire load thanks to freshmen Maddie McKee and Mackenzie Baldwin, who have pitched 39 and nine innings, respectively. McKee is 3-2 with a 2.51 ERA.
“Coming into this year I was more confident because I knew we had some freshmen coming up that could back me up,” Kara Weems said. “And just having the seniors that we have this year stepping up to be leaders helps a lot with me on the mound, because I know I have the defense that I need behind me to win games.”
Miller (.486) and Fox (.448), each of whom has signed with Walters State, lead the Pioneers in hitting. Miller leads the team with three home runs and 23 RBIs. Weems is hitting .362 and tied for the team lead with five doubles.
Riley Hope is second in home runs (two) and RBIs (17). Hope, McKee and Baldwin help comprise a promising freshmen class. Baldwin is third on the team in hitting (.382) and is tied for the team lead with five doubles.
“I was expecting Riley Hope to come in and be a really good hitter and outfielder,” Carla Weems said. “Of course, she is – and she’s done a great job. But Mackenzie – I don’t know how many chances she’s had at third base and she only has five errors the whole year. And she has took shot after shot down that third base line and made play after play. And she’s batting over .360 right now. … I expected her to do well, but I didn’t expect her to do as well as she has. It’s really made me happy, to say the least.
“Maddie McKee is another one that’s kind of surprised me. She’s come along and done very well for us, kept people off the bases. In the Eastman tournament she gave Kara some breaks and she did a great job. It’s nice that Kara knows there’s somebody else that can come out there and hold her own. She throws pretty hard and she’s got a real pretty knuckleball that most girls don’t throw. It has a lot of movement and it’s a lot slower than her fastball.”
Another freshman, Alyssa Suits, is contributing at catcher. In fact, her smooth transition has allowed Fox, who has caught Weems since they were eight years old, to spend more time in center field.
“Sydney’s a really good leader out there in the outfield,” Kara Weems said.
Indeed, Weems added, this Pioneer squad has an abundance of leadership, as evidenced in the comeback win against Daniel Boone.
“I think that with the team that we have and how we’ve been playing,” Kara Weems said, “that we could definitely make it to substate (sectional), and hopefully even to state.”
Her mother sees the potential for a special season shaping up as well.
“I’ve been very pleased with the way we’ve been playing,” Carla Weems said. “Even when we’ve fell behind like we did in the Boone game, they’ve found a way to scrap their way back. We did it against Unicoi over at the Eastman tournament.
“They’re just not wanting to give up, and that’s a good thing.”
Crockett is scheduled to host Science Hill on Thursday, April 19 at 4:30 p.m.