TAZEWELL, Va. —
Doggone good game for the home team. Bri Sparks ripped the hit she felt a leader should get, fancy-fielding Laura Kincer opened and closed the game with crucial catches, and Tazewell rallied for a 4-2 Southwest District softball win over Richlands Thursday.
The persistent Lady Blues (3-7, 1-2) played solid defense in the early innings and put together some solid hits in the fourth frame but could not hold Tazewell down at the end.
Mac Cordill had a splendid outing for Richlands, scoring the first Blue run and hitting a long drive that Kincer ran down to end the contest.
Savannah Miller used her speed to give Tazewell (3-5, 1-1) a third-inning lead. She led off and reached on an error, then raced to second on the throw. Miller dashed to third on an errant pitch and then alertly slid home on another wild throw to push the Dogs ahead 1-0.
Richlands answered quickly in the top of the fourth, with the first four batters reaching base. Cordill dropped a singled inside the right field line for the first Lady Blues’ safety before Autumn Lamie spanked an RBI single into left center. Keisha Lynch hit one past third and then Savannah Barber singled to load the bases with nobody out.
Tazewell catcher Haley Bradshaw tossed to Sparks for a force at the plate on the next play and then Chelsea Perkins walked to force home Lynch with the second run. Two plays later, Julianne Hart’s good scoop saved an out and got the Dogs back to the dugout trailing by only a run, 2-1, escaping a bases-loaded no out jam with minimal damage.
Sparks, who finished with eight strikeouts, settled down and held the Blues off the scoreboard over the final three innings. Katie Richardson had a solid game on the mound for Richlands, not allowing a clean hit until the fifth inning.
Cordill, who made several outstanding plays at short, said, “We really wanted to win the last (regular season Southwest District) game we will get to play on this field. I’ve hit a couple of home runs against her (Sparks) and I thought that last ball was gone. It was just a little short.”
Kincer notched the tying tally in the fifth after a lead off walk. Karlee Wasilewski laid down a sacrifice bunt. With Kincer on second, Allie Lee laced a hit to right center. Kincer slid in to tie the game at 2-2.
Sparks then paved the way for a win when she singled sharply up the middle leading off the sixth. Bradshaw reached on an error. With two on and nobody out, Hart sacrificed the runners down. Kayla McCroskey dropped a seeing-eye single into the hole at shortstop over a drawn-in Richlands infield and Sparks raced home with the go-ahead run.
“I had two (strikes) and I was not going down,” grinned Sparks. “I’m a senior and it’s my job to make a big play. I had to get that hit and my teammates stepped up to get this win.”
After Sparks scored, Miller flied out to right center, being robbed on a dazzling catch by Mikayla Baldwin. When the ball was returned to the infield, the Blues tried to catch McCroskey at first. The throw went off line and Bradshaw never slowed down, dashing over the plate to put the Dogs ahead 4-2.
Kincer walked again before she and McCroskey pulled off double steal but Baldwin made another sensational catch on Wasilewski’s liner to end the inning.
Baldwin said later, “We made some good plays with the glove but we didn’t hit very well. We have to improve on that.”
Sparks set Richlands down in order in the sixth inning. Katie Richardson slapped a one-out single to open the seventh for the Lady Blues. With two down, Cordill lofted a high drive to deep left that Kincer corralled at the wall to secure the victory.
Kincer, who started the games with successive running catches on the first two batters of the game, said, “It’s been a while since we beat Richlands. We heard the girls were going to hit some home runs on us, and I was trying to make sure I did my job with the glove.
“I didn’t get a lot of hits, so I wanted to keep a sharp eye. I’ll take three walks, whatever we need to get a win. This (victory) feels really good.
Richlands coach Ronnie Davis noted, “We started out well and got the lead but couldn’t quite hold it. (Bri) Sparks was strong today, she mixed up her pitches well, kept us off balance and came up with a big hit. Tazewell got the job done.”
Tom Keene, Tazewell mentor concluded, “We were very fortunate. Richlands played a heck of a game. Our players came up with some key plays when we had to make something happen. I’m proud of this team.”
Richlands travels to Virginia High Tuesday, while Tazewell will play Tuesday at Marion and then participate in a tournament in Knoxville, Tenn., beginning Friday with a game against Lenoir City.
At Tazewell High School
Richlands...............................000 200 0 — 2
Tazewell..................................001 012 x — 4
Richardson and Osborne. Sparks and Bradshaw. WP—Sparks. LP— Richardson. HR—none.�