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By David Sharp
Knox County’s September 28, 2021 softball Senior Night was like two games in one. The Lady Birds pressured Knox County’s defense, scoring seven times in the first four innings on the way to an 8-4 South Shelby win.
Seniors Daniela Dooley and Taylor Walker were honored along with their parents.
Knox County turned their fortunes around in the final four innings. The Lady Birds made at least three spectacular defensive plays to stem Knox County rallies.
South Shelby made effective use of small ball, especially in the first three innings. The Lady Birds pressured Knox County’s defense, putting runners on second and third base in the top of the first inning.
Lady Eagle pitcher Daniela Dooley induced a pair of ground balls. Sandwiched in between was Jen Hinkle throwing a Lady Bird runner out at the plate for the second out.
Knox County went down in order to South Shelby hurler Zoey Elliott in the first three frames. Larissa Larrick reached base on an error leading off the South Shelby second inning.
Cassidy Curtis doubled. Jayda Lanpher lofted a sacrifice fly to right field. Bailey Bowen made a nice catch, robbing Emma Dovin of an extra base hit for the second out of the Lady Bird second inning.
Kamryn Mitchell singled. Two South Shelby runs scored for a 2-0 lead after two full innings. Zoey Elliott led off the Lady Bird third inning with a hit. Larissa Larrick drilled a one out RBI hit.
Agnes Reel came in to pitch for Knox County. Daniela Dooley pitched two innings plus allowing three runs, two earned on six hits. Cassidy Curtis greeted the Lady Eagle reliever with a hit.
The inning ended with a groundout to second base. South Shelby led 3-0 after three innings. Kamryn Mitchell started a South Shelby two out fourth inning rally with a base hit. Emilee Barr got another hit.
“We avoided the big, blowup inning,” Lady Bird coach Luke O’ Laughlin said. ”You look up at the scoreboard and they scored one run, two runs and one run in an inning. You would like to think you can do enough offensively if they do that.”
“We got them to leave some runners on,” Luke O’Laughlin said. “Our girls made some real big plays, especially in that sixth inning. Miranda Patterson made a great catch in left field. She made a catch with runners on. That’s what it takes to avoid big innings.”
Two errors and a walk opened the gates for a four run Lady Bird rally. Ten batters came to the plate in a four run on three hit top of the fourth inning. South Shelby led 7-0.
Knox County got a run back in their fourth inning. Brianna Miller reached base on an error. Bryston Miller drove Brianna Miller in with a sacrifice fly. Baila Miller and Shalee Zuccarini collected two out hits.
Momentum seemed to shift despite one run being scored and Knox County trailing by a 7-1 margin after four full innings. Emma Dovin led off the Lady Bird fifth inning with a hit.
Knox County backed their pitching defensively in the fifth inning, setting the next three batters down in order with no runs scored. Dovin was stranded on third base.
Agnes Reel led off the Knox County fifth inning with a hit. Reel later scored on an error. Jen Hinkle reached base on another infield error. Daniela Dooley drove Hinkle home with an RBI hit.
Another error led to Knox County having runners on second and third base with one out. Zoey Elliott set the next two batters down, limiting Knox County to a pair of runs. South Shelby led 7-3 after five innings.
Shalee Zuccarini led off the KCHS sixth inning with a base hit. Zoey Elliott fanned a batter. Miranda Patterson got the second out with a great fielding play in left field. Jen Hinkle walked.
Daniela Dooley drove Shalee Zuccarini home with a two out RBI hit. Knox County clawed back within a 7-4 deficit entering the seventh inning.
South Shelby took advantage of an error. Summer Hunolt led off reaching on the miscue. Emma Dovin and Kamryn Mitchell stroked consecutive singles. Agnes Reel struck out a batter with the bases loaded and nobody out.
Zoey Elliott helped her cause drawing an RBI walk for an 8-4 lead. A strikeout and a good fielding play by second baseman Brianna Miller ended the inning. Knox County limited what could have been a big inning but lost a measure of momentum in the process.
”It’s hard to lose games where you feel like you just did not show up to play,” Knox County coach Lauren Dale said. “Maybe early, mentally we were not there. But those are the adjustments we have to make.”
Summer Hunolt ended the game with a good running catch in right field. South Shelby scored eight runs on 14 hits and four errors. Kamryn Mitchell was 3-5 at bat for the Lady Birds.
Zoey Elliott was 2-4 with an RBI. Jayda Lanpher was 2-3 with two runs driven in. Emma Dovin went 2-4 at the plate.
Zoey Elliott pitched the seven inning distance. Elliott fanned three batters with one walk on eight hits and four runs, one earned.
Knox County scored four runs on six hits and seven errors. Daniela Dooley was 2-4 with an RBI on her Senior Night. Agnes Reel pitched four and 2/3 innings with four strikeouts and three walks on six hits. One of the five runs charged to Reel was earned.
“Mentally we have to show up to play, and be present in every moment. I think there are a lot of distractions around Senior Night,” Lauren Dale said. “You lose great kids. They have given a lot to the program. There’s a lot around that. It’s hard to ignore those distractions.”
“I think going forward we just have to find a way to dial into games. And be ready to compete every opportunity.”