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A win was not in the cards for the Horns against the Patriots

Having lost in matching 2-1 conference defeats against the Sullivan East Lady Patriots, Johnson County’s softball team came into their first round of the District Tournament last Thursday at Sullivan North High School hoping for some retribution. Yet, while the game proved to be another nail biter full of potential upsets luck just didn’t seem to be in the cards for the Lady Longhorns. The first half of the game proved to be a testament to close calls.
Kalli Sluder led off with a hit to take first base and made it as far as third on a hit from Cindi Eddington. Much to Johnson County’s chagrin, both runners ultimately ended up left on base as the next three at bats found the ball but became victims of easy catches from pop ups and grounders to first base. The second and third innings went much the same way, except lacking in any sort of real hit as the ball consistently failed to find its way into one of the gaps in East’s defense. The Lady Longhorns finally got on base again in the fourth with a huge double from Jayme Jennings, who was once again left stranded by a line drive catch and a strikeout.
Brianna Snyder led from the mound and did a good job keeping East away from the scoreboard in the first few innings, but also had a lot of help from first baseman Demi Blevins and outfielders Eden Fenner and Michala Cretsinger. Even so a few hits did get through and by the third inning the Lady Patriots earned one run and were well on their way to a second. A strikeout and two quick catches ended that drive just in the nick of time and East didn’t score again until the fifth, but that was when Johnson County’s luck finally ran out.
Trailing 0-2 the Lady Longhorns desperately needed their offense to step up at the bottom of the fifth. Kelsey Duperry led off and made solid contact on the ball but was caught out by the shortstop. Meghan Walters was next up, landing a hit and eventually moving to second after Eden Fenner took a hit from the pitcher. Kalli Sluder became the second out when she was caught with a popup  in left field leaving the fate of the game to come down to power hitter Cindi Eddington.
Nailing the ball on her first swing, it looked like Eddington might just bring in the one hit that Johnson County needed to take the lead, but even as the ball was sailing over the outside fence, East’s defense made the one catch they needed to avert certain disaster. “The girl reached over the fence to catch Cindi’s ball,” said Head Coach Dana Smith incredulously.  “That would have been a three run homerun. She literally put her arm over the fence to catch the ball.”
With that hugely upsetting catch, the Lady Patriots came into the sixth still leading 2-0. A critical error, one of only two on the evening, and a hit by the leadoff batter allowed two more runners to reach home plate, yet with two more runners waiting in the wings on third and second, Michala Cretsinger pulled off a great catch in the outfield to finish the inning.
“We let them score two runs on two errors,” Coach Smith lamented. “Kalli made an error that she never makes with two outs. We get a runner on and they also score a run there. Then Jayme dropped a ball with two outs and they scored again. They talked about it in the huddle, the things that we do, and I’m just hoping that whoever we play Monday that we come in here with everything blazing.”
Those extra two runs sealed the game for Sullivan East. Demi Blevins got on with a huge double in the seventh but proved to be the only strong hit of the inning. Failing to complete a full run in spite of the missed opportunities, Johnson County had to settle with an opening loss in their tournament bid. “We’re tired, this group is tired,” Smith said.  “I’m glad that they have a little bit of downtime. Right now all the teachers are pushing them really hard. We’re getting ready for EOCs, AP exams, dual tests. We’re talking about a bunch of kids that are top academic kids, National Honor Society kids, and they are taking those heavy classes. We’re pushing really hard right now and everybody is just tired. Emotionally, I think maybe coming back Monday everybody will be regenerated after this weekend and we’re just going to come together.”