Meridian Star

Sports

April 2, 2014

Nelson’s 2-run double provides needed spark as NEL tops Quitman

With one swing of the bat, Kaytee Nelson turned the momentum in her team’s favor.

Northeast Lauderdale High School was struggling offensively as it trailed Quitman High School 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning. But the Lady Trojans managed to load the bases with no outs, giving Nelson a chance to make the game interesting.

And she did just that, lacing a two-run double on the first pitch to tie the game. Northeast would go on to score four more runs that inning, and Quitman was unable to put a dent in that lead as Northeast went on to win, 6-2.

“It was huge,” Northeast head coach Sean Gerald said of Nelson’s hit. “She’s a senior, and she made the All-Star game last year, so we put trust in her and Brittany Baty at all times, and at that time, that’s the one we wanted at the plate. We told her, ‘Go after the first pitch,’ and she hit one about as hard a hit as you can have and really broke open the game for us there.”

Nelson said her mindset was to swing as soon as she saw a good pitch.

“I was just trying to hit the first strike that came across the plate,” Nelson said. “I was trying to be aggressive and make something happen.”

She insisted, however, that she had a plan of attack and wasn’t going to just swing at the first pitch no matter what.

“I was trying to look for something early, though,” Nelson said.

After her two-run double, the Lady Trojans took the lead when Mechele Lawson scored on a wild pitch while Lady Panthers pitcher Abigail Toomey was trying to intentionally walk Baty, since Baty was 2-for-2 with a triple at that point. Labresha Hudson then came home on a fielding error to make it 4-2, and Haley Randall followed that up with an RBI single to send home Zy Harris. Madison McElroy scored on a squeeze play by Brianna Robbins to make it 6-2 Lady Trojans.

Gerald said his team brought a different mindset into the fifth inning, which allowed them to jump ahead after struggling at the plate up to that point.

“We attacked the ball and went after first-pitch strikes instead of waiting for our pitch,” he said. “We laid down two bunts that inning, and the defense sort of rocked on their heels a little bit.”

And Nelson said she was happy to provide her team with a much-needed spark.

“I feel like it made a big difference,” Nelson said. “I feel like that put a lot of momentum into us.”

The sluggish fifth was a blemish on an otherwise strong performance for Toomey, who pitched six complete innings in the loss. She ended the game with six runs on six hits while striking out six and walking three.

“Abigail has done a great job for us all year,” Quitman head coach Thad George said. “That’s what we’ve grown to expect out of her, and it’s really good to have that on your side. As a team, though, we still have to learn to limit the damage when we get into hot water. We needed to make a couple of plays in that inning, and we didn’t make them, and to their credit, they took advantage of it.”

Quitman took an early 2-0 lead in the top of the second when Hannah Hampton and Morgan Rowell both had RBI singles. George said his team left a few more runs on the basepaths and contrasted that with Northeast’s fifth inning.

“We got two, and we could have gotten more,” George said. “In the fifth inning, they had a chance to score, and they cashed in on their opportunities. We played well, and we put the ball in play against a very good pitcher, we just had one inning where they executed, and they did what they should do.”

Baty got the win for Northeast, going seven innings and surrendering two runs on five hits. She also walked four and had one strikeout.

“She’s the best there is,” Gerald said. “She’s tough. Not many people are going to hit her hard. She gets better every time, and we’re proud of her. She made the All-Star team this year and will play in June, and one thing about her, she doesn’t let anything bother her. She’s tough mentally and threw the ball well tonight.”

Baty finished 2-for-2 at the plate with a triple. No one for Quitman had more than one hit.

Northeast (7-5, 3-1) will play at Northwest Rankin High School Thursday, while Quitman (6-6) will host Greene County Thursday.

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