Kelly defeats Marion C. Early in third place contest
COLUMBIA -- The Kelly Lady Hawks softball team took home third-place hardware on Friday afternoon, as they fell in their semifinal game to the Palmyra Lady Panthers 7-0, then bounced back to beat the Marion C. Early Lady Panthers 4-1, in the MSHSAA Class 2 State Playoffs for the third-place trophy.
In game one, Kelly faced one of the toughest pitchers in Class 2, sophomore Taylor Baxter, who held the Lady Hawks to just one hit on the day, and had a perfect game going until the sixth inning.
Kelly's lone hit came off the bat of Ashley Flahardy, who dropped in a single to right field to break up the quest for perfection from Baxter.
"The first one was a tough loss," Kelly head coach Rhonda Ratledge said. "Hey, what can you say? Palmyra's a good team."
Baxter faced just one over the minimum, and the Lady Panthers pounded out 10 hits in the game off of both of Kelly's hurlers, Jessica Riley and Heather Beggs.
Riley started the game, throwing the first two innings, battling the 30 m.p.h. wind gusts and the Lady Panthers bats. She allowed one run, on two hits, with four walks and had one strikeout.
Beggs came into the game in the third inning in relief, giving up six runs, on eight hits, two strikeouts and allowed two walks.
Kelly's hurlers battled with illegal pitches in game one, as they had three called against them between their two pitchers.
"Palmyra put it in play," Ratledge said. "We had three illegal pitches called that didn't help."
The maroon and gold faithful that made the trek with their girls to Columbia didn't let the loss take all of the air out of their sails, as they cheered the girls right into game two of the day, where the Lady Hawks took on a Marion C. Early squad that had lost their first game to the Westran Lady Hornets by a score of 5-2.
"Losing the first game got the ladies a little pumped up for game two," Ratledge said. "They knew they weren't going to go home losing two games."
Kelly started out game two on a roll, as they nearly batted through their lineup in the second inning, plating four runs after Brittany Brantley got things going with a double in the gap.
Flahardy, Beggs, and Haley Glastetter would all follow with singles before leadoff batter Londyn Backfisch came up and doubled to bring in another run.
Senior Sarah Ruff would plate the last run of the inning on a sacrifice bunt.
After the second inning scoring stint, the Lady Hawks only recorded four hits, but the first seven hits were enough to do the damage for the victory and the third-place trophy.
Riley once again got the start, going the first four innings, giving up one run, on two hits, facing 15 batters and fanning two.
Beggs was in relief for the second straight game, and threw the remaining three innings, giving up no runs, on one hit, one walk and had one strikeout, while facing 10 batters.
The most exciting play of the game came while the Lady Hawks were on defense and courtesy-runner for, Sarah Childs, over-ran second base setting up a hot-box between second base and third.
After several throws the runner was tagged out, and just like that the madness started all over again, as the batter that hit the ball, Shelby Skinner, did the same thing, setting up yet another rundown play.
Skinner was tagged out with nearly every single player on the Lady Hawks roster standing over her.
"We made some outstanding plays in this game," Ratledge said."We had a few double plays and some good plays at second base by Londyn (Backfisch)."
"It was great to come out this game and have no nerves," she added. "I'm proud of them."
Leading at the plate for Kelly was Backfisch, who was 2-for-4, with a single, a double, a stolen base and an RBI, and Ruff, who was 2-for-3, with two singles, a stolen base, a sacrifice bunt and an RBI.
Kelly handed Bailey Williams the loss, scoring four runs, on eight hits and had six strikeouts.
The Lady Hawks take away a 21-7 record on the season, thanks in part to the young nucleus of players that will be returning for next season, mostly as seniors.
"We're excited that we may get another shot at State,"
Brantley, a junior, said. "We're only going to lose one senior (Sarah Ruff). And even though she's a big asset, we'll be better prepared next season with this experience."
Ruff says that she's uncertain what her future holds, and that she's ready for basketball season, and will see what offers are on the table throughout the year. She says she's taking a lot out of her career as a Lady Hawk under "Coach Rat's" guidance.
"I've learned to have a positive attitude," Ruff said. "I've learned to play hard and to have a good time while doing it."
After 14 seasons and a 335-90 record, the Lady Hawks field general Ratledge clearly shows that she can get ever ounce out of her players.