(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
BENTON -- With their season on the line Wednesday afternoon, Kelly starting pitcher Kristen Powell gave the Lady Hawks two of their biggest outs this season.
Up 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh facing East Carter County in Class 2 Sectionals, Powell found herself in a bind when an illegal pitch moved the tying run from second to third with one out.
Able to keep her composure, however, Powell struck out the Lady Cardinal's Kimberly Shaffer swinging before catching Lanna Shaffer looking for a called third strike to send the Lady Hawks to the state quarterfinals.
"She couldn't really catch up so I just kept throwing fastballs," Powell said of getting the final out. "I kept it off the plate and it worked."
Having to hold a lead late was a bit of a role reversal for Kelly as the Lady Hawks were the ones who were forced to come from behind in the latter innings of each of their last two district tournament wins.
Coming up with back-to-back runs in the first and second, Kelly was able to make sure this time around that wouldn't be the case.
Stepping to the plate with two outs in the first, freshman Jade Rampley gave her team the early spark they needed when she hit a shot just over the right fielder's head that slowly rolled to the fence.
Using her speed, Rampley easily cruised around the base paths until she slid home for an inside the park home run.
It was Powell contributing to her own cause the following inning when, after advancing to third, she took home on an over throw back to the pitcher by the Lady Cardinal's catcher to put Kelly up 2-0.
"It's good to pounce on top first," Rampley said. "Because if you don't you'll usually be playing from behind."
With little margin for error, Kelly's defense was able to hold the Lady Cardinals scoreless until East Carter's No. 3 hitter Mariah Randazzo crossed the plate in the sixth to cut the deficit in half.
Reaching on a fielder's choice, Randazzo found her way home when Kelen Smith hit her second double of the night, allowing Randazzo to reach third before taking home when an errant pick off attempt ended up in the outfield.
Luckily for the Lady Hawk's, after Courtney Marler led off the seventh with a double for East Carter, Powell got Ashley Christman to pop up to the catcher before the above mentioned strikeouts ended the Lady Cardinals hopes.
"We still can't get our hitting quite down quite like I want," Heuring said. "But at least good defense will win a lot of ball games for you."
Kelly now advances to the quarterfinals Saturday, where they will face Hartville after the Lady Eagle's 12-11 win over Dixon.
Kelly 110 000 0 - 2
East Carter 000 001 0 - 1
WP -- Kristen Powell. LP -- Courtney Newman. Multiple hitters -- (E) Lindsay Crowley 2-3, Kelen Smith. 2B -- (E) Smith 2, Faith Eaves, Courtney Marler. HR -- (K) Jade Rampley.