By TREY WILLIAMS
Kara Weems pitched a complete game, right fielder Maddie Roy threw a runner out at the plate to help thwart a sixth-inning rally and David Crockett’s softball team held on to defeat Science Hill 5-4 and avenge its lone Big Seven Conference loss Thursday at David Crockett.
The victory assured Crockett (7-1, 22-7) control of its own destiny in the race for a league title. Science Hill had beaten Crockett 2-1 on March 19 thanks to a two-run, walk-off home run.
It was the Pioneers that had to overcome a one-run deficit in the rematch. They tied the score in the fourth and took a 4-1 lead with a three-run sixth – a frame that included two critical throwing errors by Hilltoppers infielders.
Crockett added an invaluable insurance run in the sixth when Sydney Fox followed Mackenzie Blankenship’s one-out double with a one-out RBI double. Otherwise, Science Hill would’ve tied the score on Mia Edwardson’s two-out, two-run home run in the seventh.
“We definitely knew that we were gonna have a fight coming in, and we were ready for it today,” said Fox, who went 3-for-4 with two doubles. “Science Hill’s a good team, but we’re right there with them. And we were ready to do the work to be first in the conference.”
Weems, a junior right-hander, allowed eight hits, walked one and struck out four en route to the complete-game victory.
“Science Hill has a good team,” Crockett coach Carla Weems said. “I think she was hitting her spots today.”
Indeed, after counterpart Sejal Neas led off the second inning with a home run to open the game’s scoring, Weems had retired 13 of 14 batters prior to Edwardson’s one-out flare single in the sixth.
Ensuing batter Mackenzie Powell was hit by a 3-2 pitch, and Makenzie Smith followed with a sharply hit single through the right side of the infield that appeared certain it would score Edwardson from second base. But Roy made a long, accurate throw from right field to retire a sliding Edwardson thanks, in part, to a quick tag from Fox.
It looked like the ‘Toppers would be trailing 4-2 with one out and runners at second and third. Instead, Roy preserved the three-run lead with an impressive assist for the second out of the inning.
“That was an awesome play,” Carla Weems said. “And it could have been a tied ballgame had she not made that great throw.”
Science Hill interim manager Bob Dempsey (head coach Jerry Higgins has missed a significant portion of the season due to his wife’s illness) said Roy’s throw, as well as two errant ones from his players, were the keys of the game.
“It was a huge play (by Roy),” Dempsey said. “She made a great play – great play.”
Crockett scored a run in the fourth to tie the score. Weems led off the frame with an infield single, and after speedy courtesy runner Maddie McKee stole second and third base on back-to-back pitches, Roy scored her with a one-out single.
The Pioneers added three unearned runs in the fifth. A frame that included the pair of Science Hill throwing errors was also fueled by hits from Baldwin, Roy and Reagan Miller, and stolen bases by Lenzie Jenkins, Miller and Baldwin.
“It took us a little while to get going, but once we started hitting the ball and getting the momentum behind them I think we were okay,” Carla Weems said.
“We didn’t hit it as good as we have been. Sydney hit it good today, but my (Nos.) 2, 3 and 4 didn’t hit it as good as they have been hitting it. It took us a little while to get going, but I was proud of them for their effort. They did a good job.”
Roy was 2-for-3 with an RBI and Baldwin was 2-for-3 with two runs.
“Mackenzie (Baldwin) is a freshman,” Fox said, “and she’s really stepped up for our team.”
Jenkins went 2-for-4 with a run and two stolen bases. She also bounced up quickly from two jarring collisions.
“She is tough,” Carla Weems said. “I’ve got a bunch of tough girls.”
Crockett went 3-2 in the Wayne Hodge State Farm Classic in Elizabethton. It suffered one-run losses to Sullivan East and Sullivan South on Friday, and defeated Happy Valley (12-4), South (11-4) and East (3-1) on Saturday. Intensity might’ve ebbed a bit between the win against Science Hill and an April 24 first-place showdown at Daniel Boone.
“We struggled Friday night after the big win over Science Hill,” Weems said. “But we settled back down and won three straight on Saturday. I really like the way the girls are playing right now.”
Fox is leading the Pioneers with a .462 batting average. She’s second on the team with 26 RBIs and is tied for the team lead with fellow Walters State signee Reagan Miller, the shortstop, with three home runs. Miller has 27 RBIs and is hitting .411.
McKee, a freshman, is hitting .432 and has established herself as the No. 2 pitcher. The ace, Weems, is 17-3 with a 1.66 ERA.