The Henry County Lady Cats and the Gallatin County Lady Wildcats began their 31st district championship game on May 22, but Mother Nature would not cooperate.
Lightening and rain suspended play after one inning with Gallatin County leading 2-0.
Henry County went down in order on three ground balls to start the game and Gallatin scored in the bottom of the first.
The Lady Cats avoided further damage when Madison Rabourn threw out a runner trying to score from first base on a double.
Play resumed Thursday in the top of the second inning with the Lady Cats at bat. The Cats went down in order again on two ground balls and a strikeout.
Gallatin County scored two more runs in the bottom of the inning on a single, a walk and a double.
Gallatin County’s pitcher Danielle Nichelson made it nine batters in a row in the third as the Cats again failed to get a ball out of the infield.
Gallatin added three more runs in the third and most damaging inning for the Lady Cats. The Lady Wildcats got their runs on two hits, three walks and a hit batter.
Henry County got their first base runner of the game in the fourth when Krista DeBurger walked with one out but the Lady Cats could not take advantage and they went into the fifth inning trailing 7-0.
The Lady Cats got their bats going in the fifth inning when Mikaela Cline reached on an error. Shelby Ray hit into a force play at second, before Rabourn delivered the Cats’ first hit of the game with a line-drive, RBI home run over the right field fence. Molly Williamson followed with a single and Aly Stanley reached on an error with two outs.
But the Cats rally ended with a pop out to third base and left them trailing 7-2 going into the sixth inning.
Gallatin County added a run in the sixth inning with a two-out RBI single to make it 8-2.
The Cats tried to rally in the top of the seventh. Ray reached on an error and Rabourn singled to give the Cats runners on first and second with no outs. On the next play the Cats lost their hottest hitter. Molly Williamson hit a line drive to shortstop that was caught. Ray and Rabourn both were running on contact; the shortstop threw to second as Ray retreated to the base and she was called safe on the play.
Rabourn had also turned to retreat to first but fell in a heap as she twisted her knee. Rabourn could not continue and Whitney Raisor pinch ran for her. Ray then advanced to third on a passed ball.
Samantha Head followed with a fly ball to right field. Ray tagged up and headed for home, but the throw from right field sailed over the catcher’s head and into the backstop. Raisor broke for second then recognized that the ball had bounced off the screen right to a Gallatin player. The Lady Wildcats made the throw to first before Raisor could retreat safely and the game was over with Gallatin County winning the district championship 8-3.
Coach Jon Kasten felt that the Cats’ early struggles at the plate were the key to the game. “We were just missing the ball at the plate,” he said. “We put the ball into play but everything was into the ground. We didn’t get a ball out of the infield until Olivia’s fly ball in the fourth.
“They are a strong team, there’s no doubt about it.”
Kasten felt that by the time the Lady Cats started making good contact it was too late. “We finally started hitting the ball but by the time we did, we couldn’t afford to give up outs. At that point innings and outs were against us.”
HCHS 6, Carroll 3
The Henry County Lady Cats lost their two regular season games with Carroll County by a combined score of 18-4. In those games defensive miscues cost the Cats badly. In a 7-3 home loss to the Panthers two weeks ago the Lady Cats committed nine errors.
Coming into the district tournament, Kasten determined that the key to winning would be better fielding on the part of his team.
Kasten got what he wanted on May 21 as the Lady Cats committed just one error on their way to a 6-3 win over the Panthers.
But Kasten felt another key was that the Lady Cats came out and executed offensively early in the game. “The good defense was definitely the main factor in the game,” he said. “But another key factor was that we came out and took it to them in the first inning.”
The Cats jumped on Carroll County in the first inning for two runs as Stanley led off and reached second on an error. Paige DeBurger then reached on an infield hit putting runners on first and third with no outs.
With one out, Olivia Whaley hit a ground ball to third base but the throw to first was dropped allowing Stanley to score and DeBurger to reach third. The Lady Cats had runners on first and third with one out, which allowed them to try a double steal. Whaley broke for second and when the throw from the catcher went to second DeBurger sprinted for home. Whaley was called out at second but DeBurger reached home safely to give the Cats a 2-0 lead heading into the bottom of the first.
It would be that kind of night defensively for the Panthers who came into the game with a reputation for good defense. They would give up five unearned runs on the night. Meanwhile the Cats played tight defense, committing no errors through the first six innings.
The Panthers earned their first run of the game with a solo home run by Kesley Ogden to start the bottom of the first inning. The next two batters reached on a walk and a single but the Lady Cats got three consecutive outs to end the inning still leading 2-1.
Henry County added a run in the second. Shelby Ray reached on an error and Rabourn laid down a sacrifice bunt that was so good that it went for an infield hit. Williamson hit a ground ball to the pitcher that resulted in a force of Ray at third and Head followed with a grounder to third that resulted in another force play. It looked like Carroll might escape the second inning unscathed but Stanley had other ideas as she singled to score Williamson from second.
Carroll went down 1-2-3 in the second and the Cats came to bat in the third and added to their lead.
Krista DeBurger singled before Whaley reached on an error. Mikaela Cline sacrificed the runners to second and third with a good bunt before Shelby Ray flied out to right field. With two outs Madison Rabourn hit a line drive single to centerfield two score both DeBurger and Whaley.
Carroll County got a run back on another solo home run, this time from Kayla Williamson, to make the score 5-2.
Neither team scored in the fourth and fifth innings but the Cats scored an insurance run in the sixth.
Samantha Head led off with a single to left field. Stanley hit into a force play to shortstop and then stole second base. The throw to second was off the mark and Stanley advanced to third on the error. Paige DeBurger then hit a soft line drive over the third baseman’s head to score Stanley.
Carroll County threatened to get back in the game in the bottom of the sixth. Their first batter hit a deep fly ball to left-centerfield. Head playing centerfield and Ray playing left field, both sprinted for the ball. Head could not reach it but Ray, sliding on her knees, made the grab to save an extra base hit.
Head caught the next fly ball to centerfield before the Panthers loaded the bases with two outs. But the Cats got out of the inning as the next batter popped out to Whaley at second base for the final out.
The Cats went down in order in the seventh leaving the Panthers with one last chance to come back.
The Panthers got the first two runners on with a single and an error to start the inning. The next batter hit a line drive right back to pitcher Krista DeBurger for the first out of the inning. With one out the Panthers got a sacrifice fly to score the runner form third. But the next batter grounded out to Williamson at third to end the game and set off a celebration by the Lady Cats who finally broke through for a win against the Panthers when it counted most.
The game was a role reversal as Carroll came in with a reputation as a good fielding team and the Cats had been struggling defensively late in the year. The Panthers committed seven errors on the day to just one for the Cats.
Kasten saw a fifth inning play as the most important for his team. Carroll County had runners on second and third with no outs after two passed balls. A wild pitch to the next batter sent the runner on third sprinting for home. But Cline, the Cats’ catcher, hustled quickly to recover the ball and threw to Krista DeBurger covering the plate.
The runner tried to retreat to third but DeBurger threw to Wiliamson who tagged the runner out. “I think that was definitely the most important moment of the game. It could have been a huge momentum swing if they get on the board there. Mikaela got after the ball very quickly and flipped it to Krista better than we’ve seen all season. Krista did an excellent job of running her back and then throwing to Molly for the out.”
Kasten was pleased with every aspect of the game. “It was a team effort, from the field to the dugout to the stands.” he said. “The crowd was amazing! The girls fed off their energy. We’ve had a hard time all season staying up in the middle innings. I really thought that our fans carried us during the fourth through sixth innings. Our girls stayed up and played from the beginning to the end and gave everything they had throughout every inning.”