For The Independent
OLIVE HILL —
Before Rowan County junior pitcher Morgan Mitchell tried for the 21st and final out of Tuesday's softball game against West Carter, she had three words for her teammates.
“We got this!” she screamed.
Mitchell then grabbed the win — her 10th strikeout gave the Lady Vikings a 1-0 win at West Carter Middle School.
“It's always a team effort,” Mitchell said.
And it was.
Sophomore designated player Abby Hammond singled home center fielder McKenzie Summers off Alyssa Shelton in the fifth inning. For defense, there was right fielder Baileigh Garvin's long run into foul territory to grab a Patience Jones fly in the fifth.
Hammond preferred hitting inside pitches like the one Shelton served because they're easier to pull. She also call the hit “weird” because she and Shelton have played together for several years.
“I liked it because I knew how she pitched,” Hammond said.
Before the game, Rowan County coach Larry Slone said he “hadn't seen a whole lot good” from his team except for pitching, specifically when it came to defense, baserunning and hitting.
The Lady Vikings (8-2) managed just three hits off Shelton and starter Leatha Reynolds (she missed the entire preseason because of an ankle injury she suffered in October and was playing just her second game yesterday). Shelton and Reynolds also combined for nine strikeouts.
Afterward, Slone called Tuesday’s game a good win, but he stuck with what he'd said earlier.
“We had one ball go between our legs,” Slone said. “... I didn't learn anything about our defense, except that we continue to make errors at shortstop.”
West stranded 10 runners. Coach Greg Reynolds said missing five games because of inclement weather was part of the reason — but far from the only one.
“Our defense played fairly well,” he said. “... I think we'll be fine after we play a few more games, get a few more swings in.
“... Give the Mitchell girl a lot of credit, she pitched a heck of a game, too. That's the best pitcher we've faced this year.”
A West second-inning scoring chance fizzled. Second baseman Makaela Buckler walked, stole second and reached third on an error that put center fielder Brooke Callihan on first. Callihan stole second, but left fielder Amber Thornsberry's infield pop-up ended the threat.
What happened to West (2-1) in the bottom of the fifth was perhaps the most frustrating part of the Lady Comets' day. Callihan and Shelton singled and catcher Brooke Adkins walked to load the bases. Then, nothing: sandwiched between Mitchell's two strikeouts was Garvin's grab.
“Morgan pitched very well when she had to,” Slone said. “She pitched her way into trouble, she pitched her way out of trouble. I fuss when she's walking people because it puts you under the gun, but when you're striking people out to take care of it, that's pretty good.”
Garvin felt she got a good jump when Jones swung.
“I felt pretty good about that,” she said. “(Mitchell) just told me (it was) a great play. Everybody did.”
Mitchell had more trouble in the sixth and seventh; she walked one Lady Comet in each frame and put two runners on. She also struck out two in each inning, including second baseman Haleigh Hanshaw on a rise ball to end the game.
“My curveball was really working,” Mitchell said. “They were swinging right through it.”
ROWAN CO. 000 010 0 — 1 3 1
WEST CARTER 000 000 0 — 0 4 2
Mitchell and Wilson. L. Reynolds, Shelton (5) and B. Adkins. W—Mitchell. L—Shelton. 2B—Holbrook (RC), Duff (RC).