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By Corey Stott, NEMOnews Media Group
The Knox County Lady Eagles softball coach Lauren Dale will tell you that her team is young and that she loves how they are developing. She also thought her team might be catching Scotland County at just the right time, as they had struggled to hit the ball in their first three outings. Unfortunately, the Lady Tigers’ bats came to life at an inopportune time for Knox County, and the Scotland offense exploded to spoil the conference opener.
Senior pitcher Kinsley Johnson was in the circle for the Lady Eagles, and she retired the side in order to start the first inning. When Knox took their first turn at the plate, Scotland County sophomore pitcher Kina Billings issued a lead-off walk to Agnes Reel. After advancing to third on a Johnson ground out, Reel scored on a fielder’s choice when Riley Strange drilled a hard liner to the shortstop Kylee Stott. Knox led 1-0 after one inning.
The game was a defensive struggle for the next two innings until Scotland got on the board with an Abby Curry solo homerun to left center. That tied the game at 1-1 in the top of the fourth. The Lady Eagles were held scoreless in the bottom half of the inning.
The Lady Tiger bats came alive in the top of the fifth, as Baileigh Phillips had a lead-off single to left field. Emiley Dial added a one-out single which advanced Phillips to third. Two batters later, with two outs in the inning and runners at first and third, Kylee Stott unleashed a three-run homerun to left field, and Scotland County led 4-1. Knox County’s Kaitlin Campbell drew a lead-off walk in the bottom of the fifth, but became the third out when she was caught stealing to retire the side.
Scotland County’s Abby Curry took a walk to lead off the Tiger half of the sixth, and Hannah Feeney followed up by reaching on a fielding error. Two batters later, Phillips singled to right and picked up a pair of RBI’s, extending the Scotland lead to 6-1. Billings retired the Knox half of the inning without a run, despite a two-out hit by Johnson.
The Lady Tigers had all of the momentum going into the top of the seventh. Kylee Stott stepped to the plate with one out, and she unloaded on the first pitch, driving a deep solo shot to center field for the final Scotland County run. The Lady Tigers led 7-1.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Lady Eagles had a tall hill to climb, needing six runs in the inning just to extend the game. Jennifer Hinkle had a one-out single, and Campbell reached on an error, but they were left stranded and the final score was 7-1 in favor of Scotland County.
Kina Billings was the winning pitcher for Scotland, giving up one run on three hits, and striking out six. Kinsley Johnson took the loss, allowing eight hits and seven runs, and striking out eight. Both pitchers pitched a complete game.
Following the game, coach Lauren Dale said, “That was a good team tonight!” She added that while she hated to see the Scotland bats come alive against them, she feels that “it’s only gonna make us better able to face mental adversity and physical adversity. Hopefully from here on out we’ll build on that and be a stronger team going forward.”
She was proud of her entire team, but especially proud of her senior pitcher Kinsley Johnson. “I don’t think the scoreboard shows it, but I think Kinsley had her best outing yet. She had her most strikeouts and she’s taking it in stride. I’m excited because tonight she was more confident and finding her groove, and mentally she was being tough, and that’s exciting to me!”