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Lady Cats squeak by Austin, 3-2

May 13, 2009
The North Harrison Lady Cats got an important Mid-Southern Conference win over visiting Austin Thursday afternoon but only by the hair on their chinny-chin-chins as they squeaked out a 3-2 victory, with the winning run scoring in the bottom of the seventh inning. The win kept the Lady Cats at 4-1 in the conference and still in the race for the championship.

North Harrison’s Kayla Lambert steps on the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning to get the winning run in the Lady Cats’ 3-2 win over Mid-Southern Conference-opponent Austin. Photo by Wade Bell
"Give them (Austin) a lot of credit," North Harrison coach John Lambert said. "They've improved immensely. That's not a bad little ball club. I thought they fielded the ball well tonight."

North Harrison got on the board first in the bottom of the opening inning. Kayla Lambert singled, stole second base and scored on a one-out double to center field by Amber Longest.

The Lady Cats scored again in the home half of the third inning. Lambert again was the catalyst, doubling for her second hit of the game. Having advanced to third base on a Mary Robertson ground out, Lambert came home when Longest grounded out for her second RBI.

"Once we start getting back in the groove and actually hitting two, three, four balls an inning, we've been solid and actually moving some base runners," John Lambert said. "We got some bunts, just getting things going again."

In the top of the fourth inning, however, it was Austin that got things going. With one out, Breanne Shelton and Brooke Stollings hit back-to-back singles. A North Harrison error on a Halley Guernsey shot to center field allowed both runners to score, and suddenly the game was tied at 2.

The Lady Cats had a chance to bounce back in the bottom of the fifth, but instead ended up frustrated. Following singles by Brittany Sears and Lambert, Robertson walked to load the bases. But that's where it ended as the Lady Cats saw three straight outs to leave all three runners stranded.

"That's one of the things where you load the bases up for your three, four and five hitters and think at least one of them is going to drive a ball somewhere," John Lambert said. "I think the kids got up there really wanting to hit the ball and got maybe a little over anxious and dropped a shoulder here or got out on the front foot a little too much there. We just didn't hit the ball hard enough to get them to find a hole."

Austin threatened to score again in the top of the sixth, getting two runners on base, but the North Harrison defense held.

North Harrison hoped to get its offense going again in its half of the sixth inning when Hillary Fonda walked, but Courtney Crone hit into a double play to send the Lady Cats back to the field.

"(The double play) is kind of tough to take, especially with Courtney's speed," Lambert said. "I don't know what happened there, slow getting out of the box or what. You don't see that very often. It was a nice play. They caught it and made two good throws and two good catches. It was pretty impressive."

After Robertson took care of business from the pitching circle in the top of the seventh inning, gunning down the side with three straight strikeouts, the Lady Cat bats rewarded her in the bottom of the inning.

With one out, Lambert was hit by a pitch and stole second. Robertson then beat out an Austin throw to first base, allowing Lambert to move to third. Then with Longest at bat, Robertson took off for second base. Austin committed a major mental error by throwing to second base, allowing Lambert to come home to give the Lady Cats a 3-2 win.

"I just told them we're just too good of team to be in the situation we're in," John Lambert said. "I didn't think we needed to be back in the bottom of the seventh inning. I thought we should have taken care of business already and that they were just good of bunch of hitters to just lay down and not hit the ball hard against this team. They're the ones that got together and decided to do the hits right before they went in the dugout. That was big for us."

North Harrison finished with six hits, led by Kayla Lambert's 3-for-3 day. Robertson struck out six Lady Eagles while walking three. The Lady Cats committed just one error but left six runners on base.

"Tonight, Brittany Sears stepped up," John Lambert said. "I thought she had a really nice game tonight. She played real well defensively and made some adjustments at the plate against their pitcher."

"I thought Kayla had a really nice game tonight," he said. "Mary pitched really well. She's that kind of kid. She's capable. She's got a very good attitude. She's never really had a lot of formal pitching lessons or anything. Basically, everything she's learned has been from being around here and this program and on her own with mom and dad. She works hard, and tonight it showed."

Austin collected four hits, with Stollings getting two of those. Hurler Rachelle Blaylock struck out four Lady Cat batters while walking three and hitting one. The Lady Eagles also made one error and left five runners on base.

"They're a good bunch of kids," Lambert said of his team. "They motivate themselves well. We try to help them along, but they came up and they were focused. … I was really glad to see that (seventh) inning go the way it did. I was surprised to see them throw to second. With the winning run at third, I was really surprised at that, but we'll take it."

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