The James River softball girls got themselves into a deep hole in the first three innings against Salem last Friday evening in Springwood, but rallied to win, 5-4.
The Knights, who had not trailed in a game all year, found themselves down 4-0 as they came to bat in the bottom of the third inning. Salem had scored in each of the first three frames on a combination of five hits, a walk and three Knight errors.
“Saying that we got off to a rough start is an understatement, but we steadied ourselves and started fighting back,” said River coach Steve Austin. “I had commented to the team before we began play that we had not really faced adversity yet and this might be the night, and it was.”
In the bottom of the third with one out, Jenna Pugh, Lexi McCullough, and Elly Lackey all walked as Spartan freshman pitcher Cora Sparger struggled with her control. The home team took advantage of the walks as Austyn Moran lashed a two-run single back up the box to cut the deficit in half. Sparger was able to work out of the jam with no further damage.
Down 4-2 in the fourth, Cloey Joynes and Ripley Barry led off the inning with consecutive singles, though Joynes was called out at third on a tag trying to advance. After a strike out, Pugh legged out an infield single. Pugh then got caught up in a steal attempt, allowing Barry to score the Knights’ third run.
James River took the lead with the game’s final runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Trailing 4-3, McCullough beat out a bunt leading off. Elly Lackey’s fly ball fell behind second base but McCullough was forced out at second. Moran then lashed a sinking line drive hit to right field that got by the right fielder. Lackey scored easily and the relay throw sailed out of the field of play, allowing Moran to score the go-ahead run.
Moran carried most of the offensive load for the Knights and she also pitched her seventh straight complete game victory. She allowed seven hits but only two earned runs. Austyn struck out three batters and walked three and shut the visitors out in the final four innings.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the resolve and execution that we showed to get back in the game,” said Austin. “Patience at the plate, getting a key bunt down, getting caught up in a rundown to allow a run to score, a perfect throw from center field and relay to cut down a run at the plate, and an awesome 1-4-6-3 double play to stifle another Spartan rally.”
James River improved to 7-0 with the win, all against out of district competition. The Knights were scheduled to open district play at Floyd County on Tuesday.