Senior Nikki Golden’s seventh-inning single drove home Lauren Decker with the winning run as the Cougars softball team beat Butler County 5-4 in the opening round of the 12th District Tournament, held Tuesday evening in Whitesville.
The Cougars had to come back twice in the game after Butler County scored twice in the first inning. Grayson County scored once in the bottom of the first, then scored twice in the fourth inning to take a 3-2 lead.
The Bears plated a pair of runs in the top of the seventh inning to go back in front 4-3 before the Cougars’ rally in the bottom of the inning won it.
Decker started in the circle for the Cougars and pitched the first four innings, giving up just one earned run on six hits. She walked no one and struck out none.
Kara Decker took over in the fifth and pitched the final three innings. She allowed two runs on just two hits, struck out five and walked one. She reaped the benefit of the late Cougar rally and picked up the win.
Butler County jumped on top with a pair of runs in the top of the first off Lauren Decker. Third-baseman Madison Clark doubled to the fence in left-center leading off the inning and was sacrificed to third by Taylor King. Shortstop Maddie McKinney singled in Clark to put the Bears up 1-0.
Cheyenne White flew out to Allie Horton in centerfield, but the inning continued when Callie Cardwell’s grounder to Kara Decker at second was booted for an error. Abigail Fry followed with a single that plated McKinney. Fry was thrown out when she attempted to reach second on the throw home, but the Bears took a 2-0 lead.
The Cougars answered back with a run in the bottom of the inning, but missed the chance to score more. Bailey Snyder led off with a grounder to McKinney at short and was safe when McKinney’s throw pulled Olivia Jones off the bag at first.
Snyder was replaced on the bases by Kenzie Renfrow and Lauren Decker followed by ripping a ball into the right-field corner for a double. Renfrow scored all the way from first base, and Decker reached third on the throw home.
With one out, Allie Horton beat out a bunt for a hit, putting runners at the corners. Golden grounded out, but moved Horton to second. Embry Thorpe hit a ground ball to short that McKinney threw away at first. It appeared that Thorpe was safe at first and two runs scored, but Horton was called out for interference at short on the play, ending the inning with the Bears in front 2-1.
The Bears had runners at second and third with two outs in the second inning, but Decker got Taylor King on a come-backer to douse the fire.
Singles by Snyder and Lauren Decker put Cougar runners at first and second with nobody out in the third inning, but Bear starter and loser, Zoie Pendley, retired the next three batters to end that threat.
Butler County had a runner at third base with two outs in the fourth inning, but Decker got Pendley to fly out to end that inning.
Grayson County broke through with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth to go in front 3-2. Thorpe doubled to the fence in left-center leading off the inning and moved to third on a ground-ball out by Bailey Sedam.
Shortstop Haley Tucker was out trying to reach on a bunt, but designated player Rachel Snyder drove in Thorpe with a liner that ticked off the Pendley’s glove for an infield hit.
Bailey Snyder followed by lashing a ball just inside the line at third that rolled all the way to the corner and allowed her younger sister to score all the way from first base. Bailey was out trying to stretch the hit into a triple, but the Cougars still held the lead.
Things stayed that was until the top of the seventh when the Bears broke through on Kara Decker for two runs that put them in the lead. Jones led off with a solid single to left and she was sacrificed to second by Pendley.
Clark walked to put runners at first and second before Decker struck out King for the second out of the inning. McKinney worked the count to 3-2 before lining a double to the wall in right-center to drive in both base-runners and putting her team back in front 4-3. Decker got White to fly out to right to end the inning and set up the Cougar heroics in the bottom of the inning.
With the Cougars needing at least a run to keep the game going, Rachel Snyder led off by grounding out to second base. Then came the key play of the game.
Bailey Snyder hit a lazy fly ball to right that appeared to be a sure second out. Right-fielder Tori McKinney got her glove on the ball, but it somehow popped back out for an error, and Snyder cruised safely into second base, where she was replaced on the bases by Renfrow again.
Lauren Decker was hit by a pitch to put runners at first and second before Kara Decker ripped a single to center that plated Renfrow to tie the game and sent Lauren to third base.
Horton followed with a grounder to Maddie McKinney at short. McKinney held the ball so that Decker could not score from third and the bases were loaded.
That brought up Golden, who was 0-3 in her previous at bats. The Cougar first-baseman took a first-pitch ball, then rifled the next Pendley offering past a diving Cardwell at second base to bring home Decker with the winning run.
Edmonson County (22-11) defeated Whitesville Trinity 3-2 in the second game, and the Cougars (15-13) were scheduled to play the LadyCats on Thursday for the district title. Rain washed out that game and it was rescheduled for Friday.
Be sure to check out next Wednesday’s edition of the News-Gazette for complete coverage of the championship game.
Reach Don Brown at 259-9622, ext. 2016.