Having lost their first round in a surprising upset against Sullivan North, the Lady Longhorns were in a less than perfect mindset coming into their second match up with the Sullivan East Lady Patriots. Once again, Johnson County faced a team that they had dominated in the regular season only to find that the tables had turned by tournament time.
Hope Nelson took the mound for the Lady Longhorns, throwing two strikeouts in the first inning and three more throughout the rest of the game. Yet, the big trouble this time was not from the pitching staff but rather from missed catches and errors both infield and out. Coupling that with a solid offensive performance from the Lady Patriots, Johnson County was soon in deep trouble.
Within the first two innings East had jumped ahead with a whopping seven run lead including six singles and two doubles. In that same amount of time, the Lady Longhorns only advancement was a first base bunt from Abby Reece and an error in center field that eventually gave Hope Nelson second. Reece was eventually caught out leaving first and Nelson was simply Things only got worse as the game wore on. East made another three runs in the third inning, again with help from Johnson County errors and a couple of missed opportunities including one hit to center field that gave the Lady Patriots another double.
Now down 10-0 in the fourth it looked as though officials might even be forced to call the game early, but Johnson County got a little respite as senior Ashley Arnold stepped up to the plate and landed a shot into center field that eventually made her the Lady Longhorns first run of the night. With only two errors in over 100 plays, Arnold has also been one of Johnson Countys best defensive players, a fact that Coach Dana Smith is going to miss as she leaves for Milligan this fall.
Ashley went three for four tonight and as a senior leadership role thats really good, Smith said. Im really hoping, keeping my fingers crossed, that Ashley will be nominated for the sportswriters all state. Weve never had anybody gain that recognition and she is really deserving of it for all four years. To start in that position and end as well, her lifetime stats are amazing.
Arnold was advanced to third on a second good hit of the night, a double from Hope Nelson. Both were eventually batted through on hits from Linnea Yongue and Jayme Jennings. The rally was cut short by some strong defensive plays from East, especially at first base.
A strong fifth inning including a strikeout and two good catches held the Lady Patriots back, but with eight runs to account for so late in the game there was more doubt than confidence coming from the Johnson County dugout. Despite the general sense of gloom, the Lady Longhorns did make a few more advances, including a complete run from senior Kristin Roark and a couple of good swings from Nelson and Arnold. Once again runners were left on base, but Johnson County was still able to come into the sixth one run closer than they were. . Nelson threw another strikeout at the top of the seventh but then had to face a huge Lady Patriots home run from the second batter. The next two up to the plate were both caught out, but now the Lady Longhorns had to face a last chance at bat trailing 12-3. Even against these odds, Johnson Countys girls fought on, looking to Arnold once again as the first to land a hit.
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