Crawford rolls over Eastern
By Wade Bell, Sports Writer
In one of their best games of the season, the Crawford County Lady Pack advanced in the Clarksville girls’ softball sectional last Monday afternoon, overpowering Eastern (Pekin) by a 10-1 decision. A combination of strong defensive play and some big at-bats allowed the Lady Pack to move on to face Mitchell in the semifinals the following evening.
“It was really fun,” said Crawford County coach Kyia Oppel. “The girls played hard. They had good energy from the start. That’s the difference in some of our previous losses, the good energy. Execution was big in this game. Small ball, being able to bunt, fake bunt slap, push bunts, we were using everything we could. I’m really proud of them. They really did a good job.”
The Lady Musketeers threatened in their first at-bat with two base runners. Shelbi Patton reached first on a Crawford County error, then Kylie Batt was hit by a pitch. The Lady Pack took care of business at that point, however, shutting down the threat with Cheyenne Pierpont getting her first strikeout and Crawford County making two defensive plays.
Crawford County countered by getting on the board first. With one out, Kabrin Wolf singled and stole second. Pierpont walked then, with two outs, Hanaa Ashley singled, scoring Wolf, and the Lady Pack had a 1-0 lead.
Eastern went three up and out in the top of the second.
Desi Puckett gave the Lady Pack a double to start the bottom of the inning, ripping a shot down the third-base line. Anna Trueblood struck out the next two Crawford County batters. Maddie Sargent ripped a single down the middle, scoring Puckett to give the Lady Pack a 2-0 lead after two innings.
Neither team scored in the third, but Crawford County’s Wolf made a big defensive play with an over-the-shoulder catch to steal an extra base hit from Katie Rankin that would have scored Batt, who had doubled.
“I’m really proud of her for that,” Oppel said. “That’s something we’ve been working on, outfield communication, drop-stepping in the outfield and first step back. It’s paying off.”
In the top of the fourth, the Lady Musketeers got one of those runs back. Jorydon Cleek singled to start the inning then, with one out, Triston Miller hit on safely, moving Cleek to third. Miller stole second. Emma Dean smacked the Lady Musketeers’ third hit of the at-bat to score Cleek. Crawford County’s lead was cut to one, 2-1.
The Lady Pack put a third run on the board in the bottom of the inning. Puckett smacked her second hit of the game, then Crawford County used its small ballgame to push Puckett to third on two sacrifice bunts. Puckett then made the play of the game, stealing home and crashing hard into Eastern catcher Rankin, who lost the handle on the ball, and Puckett scored for a 3-1 lead.
“It sure was gutsy,” said Oppel. “When you’re paying attention on the base pads and you get a good jump, you can successfully do things like that. It may have been a little bit too gutsy for me in that moment, but it was successful so I’ll give her props for paying attention and getting a good jump from third base and giving me a heart attack … ”
“I was going so fast I could not slow down,” Puckett said. “That’s what you have to do. You can’t go back. I would have got out either way, so I just kept going. She did drop the ball. Everybody was happy.”
Crawford County’s biggest inning came in the bottom of the fifth. Eastern committed two errors, allowing Pierpont and Violet Ridenour safely on. Ashley hit an infield single, scoring Pierpont, then Mckenzie Vincent reached first on a third Lady Musketeers’ error, scoring both Ridenour and Ashley. Puckett then ripped her second double of the day to score Vincent. Kenzie Siebert put down a sacrifice bunt to move Puckett to third.
Bailey Bockting laid down a bunt, scoring Puckett, and went to second on another mistake by Eastern. Sargent put down a third straight bunt for the Lady Pack to reach first on a fourth Lady Musketeers’ error. Wolf got two RBIs with the help of an outfield error by Eastern, and the Lady Pack had a 10-1 lead. Eastern blanked out in its last two at-bats, and the Lady Pack got the nine-run win.
Crawford County had nine hits for the game with Puckett going 3 for 4 with two doubles. Ashley and Sargent also had multiple hits with two singles each. Pierpont struck out seven batters and hit two. The Lady Pack had two errors and left six runners on base.
“(Puckett’s) been a little down, but I told her you have to have confidence in yourself first and it will all come,” Oppel said of the Crawford County junior’s batting. “I’m glad she did.”
“Finally, it took me forever to hit the ball,” said Puckett. “I struggled there in the middle of the season. I’ve just been practicing a lot more.”
Puckett said the team was a little unsure of itself going into the game, but she was confident her teammates could pull through it.
“Half of the team did not (have confidence),” Puckett said. “They were like, ‘I don’t know if we’re going to win.’ and I said, ‘We’re going to win guys, have confidence.’ I was very confident in this game. … ”
“We had a talk before the game about when you walk off the bus you have to have the energy and the swagger,” Oppel said. “Our big word is swagger that you have to have when you walk off the bus and step onto the field, and they had it tonight.”
Eastern finished with five hits for the game with only one going for extra bases. Trueblood struck out five Crawford County batters and walked one. The Lady Musketeers had eight errors total and left five runners on base.
The Lady Pack saw their season end the following evening when they fell 10-0 to the Mitchell Lady Bluejackets in five innings.
Eastern 000 100 0 – 1 5 8
Crawford County 110 170 X – 10 9 2
W-Pierpoint, L-Trueblood; 1B-Wolf (CC), Ashley (CC), Sargent (CC) 2, Pierpont (CC), Trueblood (EP), Miller (EP), Dean (EP), Puckett (CC), Patton (EP); 2B-Puckett (CC) 2, Batt (EP).