SPORTS >>Jacksonville hangs on
The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils held off their biggest league rivals on Tuesday for a 1-0 win over Sylvan Hills at Dupree Park.
The Lady Bears made a serious bid to overtake Jacksonville in the top of the sixth inning when they loaded the bases with only one out, but sophomore pitcher Jessica Lanier and the Lady Devils found a way out of the sticky situation to hold on for the opening 6A-East game of the season.
The top of the sixth inning started out just like the previous five for the Lady Devil defense, as Lindsay Ogden hit into an unassisted play at first. Melissa Hobby then got the Lady Bears’ first hit of the afternoon with a grounder into centerfield.
Hollie Sifford went off third, and hit into what looked to be a fielder’s choice, but the throw from first to second was too high, and Hobby made it safely at second. That put the winning run at first with Sifford.
Hannah Scott then laid down a perfect bunt to load the bases with just one out.
But Lanier escaped the jam when she got Nicole Goff to pop into a double play back to the mound. Lanier threw to third to catch Hobby for the third out.
Arnold got one more hit for Sylvan Hills in the top of the seventh with a blooper over third base, but it was not enough. Lanier struck out Evans for the final out of the game to secure the win.
The Lady Red Devils are in the process of a large rebuilding period after returning only two starters from last year. Head coach Tanya Ganey said that Lanier and the rest of the Lady Red Devil players have some big shoes to fill, but she looks for them to do it in their own way.
“We’ve had four pitchers over the years,” Ganey said. “And everyone one of them have been different in their own way. They have all been dominant in their own way, and Jessica is no exception.
“She does things a lot different than the ones that came before her, but she has a good style, and a lot of support from the dugout cheering her on.”
Freshman Tyler Pickett had the most productive day at the plate for the Lady Red Devils, going 3-for-3 with three singles. She also helped set up the lone run of the contest when she singled to advance Alana Whatley in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Whatley reached on a walk, and eventually came in on a fielder’s choice from freshman Alexis Owens.
With only two returning starters, and Taylor Norsworthy serving as the team’s only senior, Ganey said the early efforts of her young squad have been solid. Last week’s 2-1 loss on the road against White Hall went down to the wire, with the Lady
Bulldogs pulling out the win in the bottom of the seventh.
“We’ve played two ball games, and we’ve been in both of them,” Ganey said. “The overall team effort has been phenomenal. (Sylvan Hills) had the bases loaded on us, and we found a way to get out of it.
“The girls started moving to their spots a lot better when we got in trouble, and that’s a good sign. That’s our first win in conference. We’re 1-0 now in our conference, and that’s all that matters.”