Small ball and taking advantage of runners in scoring position proved to be crucial on Wednesday, as attention to detail and a strong performance in the circle from senior Brooke Hamilton helped Owensboro Catholic grab a 2-1 home district win over the Lady Devils.
Owensboro got the first baserunner of the game on a walk, but it was the Lady Aces that had the first real scoring threat in the bottom of the first. An error by junior Sophie Moorman and a single by senior Addison Tignor led off the inning, with both runners advancing to scoring position during a strikeout by senior Bailey Hamilton.
Sophomore Kirsten Tindle was able to then get back-to-back groundouts, sending the game into the second tied at 0-0. The Lady Devils carried that momentum to the plate as well, getting leadoff singles from Moorman and junior Ashleigh Howard—advancing to scoring position on a passed ball shortly after.
Senior Lindsey Gibson proceeded to ground out, but a run came and gave them a 1-0 lead going into the bottom of the second after a fly out to end the half inning. Tindle then came back out and dealt in the circle, grabbing a pair of strikeouts to stay out in front heading into the third.
Another Owensboro Catholic error and a two-out single to left by sophomore Hessi Johnson—with sophomore Addison Hill almost getting thrown behind but lucked out on a late tag—-to put runners on first and second for Sophie Moorman. But Moorman’s grounder to right would actually hit Johnson who was running to second, resulting in her being called out and ending the inning.
The Lady Aces finally got going on the bottom of the fourth though, as senior pitcher Brooke Hamilton helped herself with a leadoff double—later advancing to third on a check-swing turned sac bunt by sophomore Tyranda Stuart and scoring on an RBI groundout by junior Ruth Jones to knot things up at 1-1. That would be all they got though, as Tindle got her fourth strikeout of the game to send it to the fifth inning.
Tindle was dealing for the Lady Devils at this point in the game, allowing just four hits, one earned and no walks to go with four strikeouts through four innings in the circle. She kept Owensboro Catholic on its toes all night, mixing speeds to throw Owensboro off.
“Her off-speed pitches were working,” Head Coach Quincy Moorman said. “Her drop ball was working. It had them off-balance. Her drop ball, when it’s working, is pretty nasty. It comes in like a beach ball and then all of a sudden it just falls off the table. It was working tonight and you could see that. Balls were hitting the dirt and they were swinging at them, because it comes out of her hand looking like a strike. And we knew that they had just finished playing Daviess County last night and saw 65 miles per hour from Raylee Roby… Coach Phelps made that comment too. He said ‘you picked the perfect pitcher to throw tonight after what we saw last night.’”
But senior Brooke Hamliton was handling business just as well in the circle, getting her fifth strikeout of the game to keep things tied up at 1-1 going into the bottom of the fifth having allowed just one unearned run on four hits. Head Coach Jeremy Phelps was proud of his pitcher’s resolve in the game, knowing that he can count on her to control the game if they’re not having as big of a day offensively.
“I can just put the thing on her shoulders and say Brooke go,” Phelps said. “She’s got that mentality. As a coach, you love it. You think you’ve got somebody that you can sit there and say, ‘the team’s down a little bit, put them on your back’—and we’ve got that.”
Leaving runners in scoring position a few times in the contest, as Moorman said that they just fell short sometimes in a solid game at the plate.
“We left some runners on base in critical times, but we looked good overall,” Moorman said. “We had a couple of at-bats where we didn’t put the ball in play when we needed to and a couple of strikeouts at costly times, but that’s part of the game.”
It came back to bite them though in the bottom of the fifth, as sophomore Gracie Dukate rewarded Hamilton’s efforts with a leadoff single—later advancing to second and third. A gutsy call for a two-out safety squeeze by Addison Tignor proceeded to pay off, giving the Lady Aces a run and a 2-1 lead going into the sixth.
“Mostly, I was just thinking that I gotta lay it down,” Tignor said. “Because there was a runner on, but I also wanted to make sure that I bunted it on the ground because I didn’t want to bunt it in the air and end up out.”
This ended up being one of the most crucial at-bats and decisions en route to the win for the Lady Devils, as Phelps said that he decided to go for it after choosing not to bunt with some pop at the plate with no outs in the inning.
“Just the situation right there,” Phelps said. “Just feel like you needed it right there. In that situation I feel like that was the right play… We let it get away with first and second with no outs and I don’t do it. Book says you’re supposed to bunt right there but I’ve got Brooke and Bailey up and I’m not doing it.”
Now down 2-1 Owensboro tried to respond swiftly with a one-out double from Moorman, but failed to score her with a strikeout from Connor and groundout from Howard. The Lady Devils tried to strike again in the top of the seventh with a little momentum on their side after an inning-double play in the bottom of the sixth, but was unable to get anything more than a walk and ultimately fell 2-1 to Owensboro Catholic on the road.
The Lady Aces advance to 9-6 overall and 2-1 in district play, glad that they got the win but knowing that they can learn from this game and improve going into a district rematch with Daviess County on Tuesday, April 25, at 5:30 p.m.
“I’m glad that we ended up winning this game, but I don’t think we played like we normally do,” Tignor said. “So I’m a little bit upset with our pitch selection and the balls we chose to swing at, but we had good defense behind us.”
Despite the end result Moorman was happy with his team’s effort, saying that they missed a few key plays but was happy to see a spark of their potential on the road on Wednesday.
“I’m proud of the girls,” Moorman said. “They came out and played well. This is what we’re capable of doing all the time and that’s what we were just talking to them about. If we play like this all the time our record is flipped.”
Owensboro falls to 4-13 overall and 0-3 in district play, hoping to take the experience from this game into a tough weekend slate—playing Henderson County, Lyon County and Calloway County on the road starting Saturday.
“I’m glad we got to play Catholic tonight because we open Saturday morning going to Muhlenberg for three games and we play Henderson first game off the bat,” Moorman said. “Another top-five team in the state. I was glad to get a tough game in before we go play Henderson. That’ll help us get ready for them.”
Owensboro Catholic and the Lady Devils also set to finish their prior game that was postponed due to injury next week, owning a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the third when they take the field at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 26.