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The Trimble County Lady Raiders notched their first win of the season in a down-to-the-wire battle against border rival Carroll County on the road Wednesday, 3-2.
First-year head coach Tanya Black was overflowing with excitement following the game. “Our first two games we hit the ball pretty decent, but just couldn’t get over that hump and this time we fought hard and did well, very proud of them,” she said.
The Lady Raiders jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the Lady Panthers tied them up in the bottom of the fourth inning. But good hitting by Trimble and miscues by Carroll allowed the Lady Raiders to re-take the lead in the top of the fifth and hold on for the victory.
Trimble’s Jessie Dunlap opened the game with a double to centerfield. She advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on an RBI single by Paige Black, 1-0. The Lady Panthers sat down the next three batters to end the top of the first.
The Lady Raiders came knocking again in the top of the third and the lineup back to the top of the order. Jessie Dunlap hit a single up the middle and advanced to second on another passed ball. McKenzie Dunlap an RBI single to left field giving Trimble a 2-0 advantage. Katie Temple and Emily Black followed with a pair of walks. With one out and bases loaded, Carroll County made a pitching change, subbing out starter Kayley Perry for Sarah Hawkins.
Hawkins and the Carroll defense managed to force a pop up to first base and a groundout at shortstop to escape the inning.
The Lady Panthers took that momentum into their bats in the bottom of the third. Leadoff Kayla Williamson singled to left field and Mackenzie Ogden reached on a Trimble error.
Pinch-runner Ashton Marksberry subbed in for Ogden and stole second base. The throw sailed into the outfield and Williamson scored. Marksberry was thrown out at home plate, which Carroll head coach and third-base coach Dennis Hawkins would say after the game was his mistake.
Jessie Dunlap hit a triple to right center in the top of the fourth, but the Lady Raiders were unable to capitalize.
Carroll started the bottom of the fourth with a single to shortstop by Hawkins. Pinch-runner Houston Lindsey stole second, and Michaela Culver followed with a single to left field. Trimble made a pitching change, bringing in Leyna Ritter for starter Hannah Lira.
With one out, Brittany Yocum laid down a sacrifice bunt, scoring Lindsey, 2-2.
Ritter struck out the next batter and forced a fly out to second base, leaving two Carroll runners on base.
Trimble’s McKenzie Dunlap led off the top of the fifth with a double into left field. #23 hit a sharp grounder to the shortstop, but the throw to first base was dropped and the ball went into the Carroll dugout, allowing McKenzie Dunlap to score the go-ahead run.
The Lady Raiders threatened again in the top of the sixth as Hannah Davis hit a single to start off the inning. With one out, Jessie Dunlap hit a fly ball over Williamson’s head at second base, but Williamson made a spectacular play, laying out for the catch and flipping around to throw out Davis at first, ending the inning.
Neither team scored in their next at-bats, taking the game down to Carroll’s final three outs. With two outs, Ogden hit the ball hard to left field. The ball bounced off of the left fielder’s glove and bounced toward the fence. Ogden made it to third, but would not get any further, as Ritter struck out the next batter, securing a Lady Raider victory.
Coach Black said she thought the difference in the game was her team’s ability to make plays at the right time and to hit the ball. “We’ve really tried hard this year to work on our hitting,” she said. “That seems to be where we’ve struggled the last several years, so this year we’ve really focused on our hitting and tonight it really paid off.”
On the other side of the field, Hawkins lamented his team’s inability to hit the ball well. He also acknowledged that his team’s youth hurt during certain situations. The Lady Panthers have just one senior, no juniors and the rest sophomores, freshmen and seventh graders.
“We had some young girls in some crucial situations that didn’t catch signs or didn’t execute the way veterans would, but we can expect that,” he said. “I’m not blaming them; it’s just the way it turned out. It wasn’t their fault.
“You can’t take anything away from Trimble County. They came in and played a pretty sound ballgame. They made the plays they needed to make; they hit the ball when they needed to hit it. … Our hats are just off to Trimble County. They outplayed us.”
Black said starting pitcher Lira did a really nice job in her first outing as a starter. After she thought Carroll had seen enough, she decided to bring in Ritter, who she said did a nice job closing out the game.
Black, who was an assistant for nine years, said she is really enjoying her new position as head coach. “These kids are great kids, and I’m learning from them as well,” she said. “… I think this is going to change our season around. We kept telling them tonight when we started, we can only go up from where we are because we have two losses. So beating Carroll County will be a big step for us.”