By Rocky Higginbotham / Special to The Star
The Meridian Star
There are bound to be a handful of tight contests when area rivals clash inside a rugged Division 5-4A fast-pitch softball lineup.
There won't be many, however, any more entertaining than the one played at the Sammie Davidson Complex Tuesday night.
Visiting Newton County scored nine unanswered runs after falling behind 6-0, then held on for a 9-8 victory over West Lauderdale on a brutally cold night at SDC.
“It's a ball game we should have won,” West Lauderdale coach Cary Luke said. “We got some breaks early, got some big hits … thought we had things under control.”
The Lady Knights scored twice in each of the first three innings to build a 6-0 lead. They were up 6-1 in the fifth inning and looked like they were about to get out of a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam when things turned went south.
“We made some plays, but if we make another one or two, they never even get back in it,” Luke said.
The contest had more characteristics of a slow-pitch game at time between the age-old rivals. Newton County
totaled 16 hits and West had 11 – with each getting their share of bloopers to fall – and both teams committed three errors.
Darby Bishop went the distance to get
the win for Newton County, striking out four – all in the last thee innings. She outdueled West's Joanna Stewart, who earned praise from both coaches afterward.
“It sounds strange to say in a 9-8 game, but I thought both pitchers did a great job,” Newton County coach Justin Chaney said. “(Stewart) pitched about as well as you could ask her to pitch. She did a really good job of hitting her spots and moving the ball in and out. We didn't hit many solid balls.
“And Darby looked like she got stronger as the game went on, especially after we got back in it.”
“We pitched good enough to win,” Luke said. “And most folks would be happy with eight runs against them. We just needed to make another play or two.”
Newton County, 13-2 overall, is now 3-0 in division play and will visit Northeast Jones Thursday. West, which
fell to 2-2 in the league, steps out of division play by hosting Southeast Lauderdale at SDC Thursday.
Bishop, Shelby Barrett and Ashton Lampton all had three hits to lead Newton County. Barrett had two doubles, two runs and three RBIs; Bishop had a double and two runs; and Lampton had a double. Latesia Davis added two hits and a run;
Dalmerika King had two hits, two RBIs and a run; Cassidy Blount doubled, scored twice and had two RBIs; Shea Alexander had an RBI single; and Savanah Gates had one hit and one run.
Mallory Vance was 3-for-4 with a double and three runs scored while East Central Community College signee Mallory Vance had a pair of doubles, three runs and an RBI to pace West Lauderdale.
Stewart was 2-for-3 with an RBI; Abbe Bates had two hits, two RBIs and a run; Ana Gilbert singled and scored; Alexa Hogan had a hit and an RBI; and Ashley Adams drove in one.
After West built its 6-0 lead, Newton County got one back in the fourth and got three straight hits to
start the fifth-inning rally.
Stewart got the next two hitters to ground into fielder's choices to keep it a 6-1 game, but King's
seeing-eye single plated two runs to make it 6-3. Barrett followed with a two-run double, then she scored from second on an error and the game was tied.
In the sixth, Blount's one-out double plated Davis and Bishop to put Newton County on top for good. Gates followed with a hard RBI single to left to make it 9-6.
West came right back in the bottom of the sixth, with Vance and Turner starting a rally with back-to-back doubles. Stewart's sac fly made it 9-7 and Bates had an RBI single to
make it 9-8 before the rally ended.