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Seven-run fourth inning propels North Miami over Maconaquah

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

The home stretch of the 2017 softball season galloped into view with the final inter-county clash between Maconaquah and North Miami taking place Monday night.

Trailing 2-0, the Braves scored three to take an early lead but a seven-run fourth was enough for the Warriors to win their second county matchup of the season 9-4.

North Miami head coach Rob Cooley said the team rebounded well after mixed games over the weekend against Winamac.

“The girls did a good job coming back from Saturday’s games,” Cooley said. “We adjusted to the pitching a little bit late as we didn’t get on the first pitcher until after the first three innings and then we got our run production.

“Maconaquah did a very good job of getting runners through in the third inning and we started the fourth down a run. The girls did a good job of responding and we got out of a couple of jams without too much harm.”

Maconaquah head coach Marsha Piggott said the lack of good swings with the bats continued to prevent the team from challenging for wins.

“Our pitching fell apart,” Piggott said. “We walked three batters in the inning with two of them forcing in runs, we had an error in the outfield and an error at second base, giving them a number of runs.

“If we don’t have that inning, we were still on top. We have to hit the ball, though, as we have opportunities to score runs and don’t do it.

“The coaches and players are all frustrated,” Piggott added.

“We have batting practice and talk about what to do but when they get to the plate, they look around with a blank stare.”

North Miami started the game with a 1-0 lead after Maryann Freeman’ knocked in Ashley Lackman with a single compounded by a Maconaquah error in the outfield.

The visitors made it 2-0 in the second inning when Hannah Hall doubled, was moved up by a sac bunt by Maddie See and scored on a Jada Laycock single.

The Braves answered back well in the bottom half of the inning to take the lead, starting with a walk to Holly Morris and an error that allowed Mikaylie Whybrew to reach base.

Lindsay Gross singled to plate Morris to cut the deficit in half though Whybrew would be out at third base.

Savannah Miracle walked before Courtney Waldman hit a grounder in the infield, scoring Gross to tie the game at 2-2.

Kylie Jaycox took the lead for Maconaquah with a single that brought Miracle in for a 3-2 lead.

Piggott said the girls were relaxed in the third inning and it showed at the plate.

“Everyone in the lineup is capable of hitting some good line-drive singles,” Piggott noted. “We have a couple of girls that are capable of putting it out of the park with a couple more that could do it with the right pitch and the right swing.

“I don’t know what causes them to be so uptight at the plate but the things we’re telling them aren’t always getting home. The girls played more relaxed with the lead but once they lost it, they got uptight and tense.”

The hosts kept the lead intact and had two outs in the fourth inning when North Miami put together a rally to take control of the game.

Hall had reached on a single between strikeouts before a single by Jadyn See and a walk to Laycock loaded the bases.

Riley Saddlemire drew a walk to force in a run before a single by Marlie Halterman put the visitors ahead 4-3.

Ashley Lackman drew a second bases-loaded walk in the inning to force in a run before Freeman knocked in two more for a 7-3 lead.

Ally Sumpter reached on an error that brought in two more runs and put North Miami in a commanding 9-3 position before Miracle, having swapped with Gross on the mound, got the hosts out of the inning.

After only pawing at Gross through three innings, Cooley said the girls were patient at the plate and timed the pitches they did hit well.

“We did adjust as the pitching style was a little bit different than what we saw on Saturday,” Cooley pointed out. “Good hitters will make those adjustments and we have over the last five to six games.

“Making that adjustment was important today and will be very important in the future.”

Maconaquah pulled one run back in the fifth after a pair of fielder’s choices and a single loaded the bases. Whybrew drew a walk to force in a run but a strikeout cut any rally short.

Miracle kept the Warrior offense in check but Lackman did likewise against the Brave attack and helped North Miami pick up its fifth TRC win of the season.

The final TRC game of the season for both teams comes Wednesday with Maconaquah traveling to Manchester and North Miami hosting Whitko.

Piggott said the girls knew the challenge that was ahead of them but added that if the girls had confidence, they could play and even beat the Squires.

“We’ve told the girls that on any given day, anyone is capable of beating anyone,” Piggott said. “This is the best defensive team we’ve had in years and we’ve cut the errors way down.

“This group is a very good defensive team but we have to so hit the ball to score and we’re not doing that. We’re swinging at things we shouldn’t be and letting nice pitches go by.

“If we can get up and on top of someone and stay there, that would be great,” Piggott added. “We’ve done that a few times this season but we’ve not had the consistent pitching or killer instinct to finish games off.”

With the Wildkats a potential sectional opponent, Cooley said coming out strong was important for the Warriors Wednesday.

“Whitko is a very good team and a team we started off sectionals last year with,” Cooley said. “They’re a very fundamentally sound team with good pitching, so we’re going to have to play a good game, come out straight-up and see how we respond and what adjustments we need to make before next week.”

At Maconaquah

North Miami 110 700 0 — 9 10 1

Maconaquah 030 010 0 — 4 7 3

WP — Lackman CG, 7H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 10 K

LP — Gross 3 2/3 IP, 6 H, 7 ER, 5 BB, 2 K

2B — Hall

RBI — Freeman (3), Laycock, Saddlemire, Halterman, Lackman; Gross, Waldman, Jaycox, Whybrew

Next Game: North Miami (8-10, 5-3 TRC) hosts Whitko for Senior Night Wednesday at 5 p.m. Maconaquah (2-16, 1-7 TRC) travels to Manchester Wednesday at 5 p.m.