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HEBRON ESTATES – The best news on Monday coming out of the North Bullitt-Bullitt Central softball meeting was that for at least five innings it was a highly competitive game.
In the end, North Bullitt scored five times in the bottom of the sixth inning before coasting to an 8-1 victory.
There was a time when it appeared that there would be no competitive game between the two rivals. Bullitt Central had lost their top two pitchers to injury in the weeks leading up to the game. The situation was so dire at one point that Bullitt Central head coach Mike Phillips had canceled/postponed various games over the previous two weeks. In the week leading up to the Monday showdown, Bullitt Central had played just once, losing to district rival Southern 13-0.
On Monday afternoon, Phillips learned that senior pitcher Hailey Szpila, who had not pitched since April 5 because of a severely sprained ankle, had been cleared to play by her doctor. Szpila was immediately put in the circle despite the rust.
So for five innings there was a competitive game for fans to watch. North Bullitt scored twice in the second inning and added one more in the third before blowing the game open in the sixth inning.
Bullitt Central had the lead runner reach base in each of the first four innings, but some questionable base-running kept those threats from producing any runs.
Finally, in the top of the sixth inning, Bullitt Central made late push. The first four batters reached base with a run scoring without an out. North Bullitt starter Jessica Wayne struck out eighth-grader Sierra Graham and then got Kim Berthiaume to hit the ball up the first base line. The Lady Eagles got the out at home and when Szpila rounded third base too far, North Bullitt catcher Bri Johnson threw her out.
“They had us in a bad situation there and we got the pick-off at third,” North Bullitt head coach Mike Nally said. “That was fantastic. That’s what you have to do in a big game.”
The big play pumped up Johnson as she led off the bottom of the inning with a home run. That was the first of four hits for the Lady Eagles in the inning as they scored five times.
Wayne had helped her own cause earlier in the game when she tripled with one out in the second inning. Wayne then scored when Carly Benz hit a ground ball to second base that was misplayed. North Bullitt added the second run when Benz scored on a wild throw from first to third following a groundout.
It was pretty much déjà vu an inning later when Bre Sherrard scored the third run on an infield ground out when another throw across the diamond was wild, allowing Sherrard to get up and scramble home.
North Bullitt finished with seven hits in the game off Szpila. Wayne had two hits with the triple while Johnson had the home run. Tabitha Kerr added a double to the attack.
Wayne got the win with a complete game in the circle. The sophomore allowed only four hits and the one run was unearned. Wayne finished with seven strikeouts and only two walks.
Two of Bullitt Central’s four hits came off the bat of lead-off hitter Sarah Noble who started the game with a double.
The win moved North Bullitt to 1-0 in district play while Bullitt Central is now 0-2. North Bullitt has a game with Southern on Wednesday and will play Moore on Thursday. Bullitt Central has a district game remaining with Moore next week.
Just being competitive on Monday was a step in the right direction for the Lady Cougars.
“The girls felt better with Mouse (Szpila’s nickname) back,” first-year Bullitt Central head coach Mike Phillips said. “They felt competitive and they were. We got to play seven innings so that was a bonus.
“We had two runners out on the bases in the first and second innings” the coach added. “Then we couldn’t get the important hit there at other times.”
Bullitt Central was originally scheduled to play Bullitt East on this Thursday but that game has been postponed and will be played sometime in the final week of the regular season, hopefully when Bullitt Central is back to full strength.
A week earlier, the North Bullitt Lady Eagles had gone on the road and played solid softball in winning three games in a tournament.
Last weekend, the green and gold went on the road again, playing for the first time since that previous tournament, but on this Saturday, the Lady Eagles lost three straight games in the Kentucky National Guard Tomahawk Classic at Madison Central High School.
The weekend series included a 7-1`loss to West Jessamine. North Bullitt only trailed 2-1 before giving up five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. All three North Bullitt pitchers worked in the game with Wayne taking the loss as she pitched into the third inning.
The offense for North Bullitt managed just five hits, but did get doubles from Benz and Lily Curtsinger.
There was also a 3-2 loss to Madison Central in a game that went eight innings. The game was tied at 1-1 after seven innings before the host team scored twice in the top of the eighth. North Bullitt fought back, but could score just one run in the bottom of the inning.
North Bullitt had six hits in the game, but three of those came off the bat of Johnson, including a double. The senior catcher drove in both of the runs that the green and gold scored.
Shelby Crenshaw pitched all eight innings in the tight game, striking-out 11 while allowing nine hits. None of the runs were earned.
The third game was a 7-2 loss to Mercer County, a game in which the Lady Eagles had five errors.
The offense for the Lady Eagles generated five hits, including two by Johnson. Both of the hits by Johnson were doubles while both Curtsinger and Crenshaw also had doubles.
“It was a long Saturday,” Nally admitted. “It felt like two Saturdays in one.”