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Lady Cats fall to Valkyries in 8 innings

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By Greg Woods

The Henry County Lady Cats opened their season at home on March 18 and fell to Sacred Heart 5-4 in eight innings.

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The Lady Cats struck first when they scored a run in the bottom of the second. Katie James laid down a suicide squeeze bunt with two outs to score Alison Harmon who was running for Madison Rabourn. Rabourn singled with one out to start the rally.

The Cats gave up their lead in the top of the fifth when Sacred Heart got two runs on a single, two errors, a sacrifice and a fielder’s choice groundout.

Henry County bounced back in the bottom of the fifth with a run of their own. Olivia Whaley walked with one out before Mikaela Cline smacked a hard shot to left-centerfield for an RBI double.

Sacred Heart came back with two more runs in the top of the sixth. Three consecutive two-out doubles did the damage for the Valkyries.

But Henry County came back with a two-out rally of their own in the bottom of the sixth. Molly Williamson walked after Rabourn flew out and Paige DeBurger grounded out. James followed and reached first on a dropped third strike to keep the Cats’ hopes alive. Pitcher and lead off hitter Aly Stanley followed with a double to centerfield that scored Williamson and James.

After a scoreless seventh inning the teams went extra innings. During extra innings a runner is put on second base to start the inning. Sacred Heart took advantage of the rule by sacrificing the runner to third and then scoring her with a suicide squeeze bunt.

The Cats were unable to advance their placed runner in the bottom of the inning and the Valkyries escaped with a hard-fought victory.

“For our opening game, we picked a pretty tough one,” Coach Jon Kasten said. “Sacred Heart is ranked 24th in the state and they have a very good team. We out-hit them and out-pitched them, however, they out-executed us. They were better defensively and they were able to execute plays at the plate with sacrifice bunts where we did not.”

Kasten was pleased with his junior pitcher who shared the starting role with Krista DeBurger last year.  DeBurger has moved on to play at Transylvania University this year.

“I thought Aly did a really nice job from the mound,” he said. “She threw a lot of strikes. She only had two walks and one of those was intentional.”

Kasten was also pleased with the team’s offensive output against a strong pitcher.

“Paige DeBurger had a really good night at the plate going 2-4, Mikaela Cline and Aly both had huge RBI doubles when we needed it desperately. Katie James got down a great bunt that scored Alison Harmon early to give us the lead.”

Kasten sees room for improvement on defense with his young team that has no seniors on the roster.

“Our defense let us down a little in the fifth and sixth inning but I was happy to see us bounce back and not give up,” Kasten said. “I’ll never be happy with a loss, but with this being our first game, I was happy to see where we are starting. We need to keep working hard every day to eliminate mistakes and make the fundamental plays.”