(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
NEW MADRID -- The New Madrid County Central softball team did Saturday what they have done all season.
Combining excellent pitching with timely hitting and good fielding, the Lady Eagles knocked off previously unbeaten Delta 11-0 to claim the championship of the NMCC Invitational, keeping their record spotless in the process.
After defeating Kennett 3-1 earlier in the day, the Lady Eagles faced Delta in the championship game Saturday evening in what was a match-up of contrasting styles. With the Lady Bobcats utilizing bunts and slap hits, NMCC countered with timely hitting and steals.
"It was a long day," said NMCC senior Samantha Hunter. "We saw some small ball which we haven't seen much this year and I think we defended it better than we have in the past."
"We don't face many teams down south that do that, but the northern teams we play like Delta and Twin Rivers, teams that play in the fall, they'll do a lot of that slapping and bunting," said NMCC coach Steve Rogers. "We have some experienced players like Sam (Hunter) who has played third for us for four years and played a lot of travel ball. And Kelly (Robey) can obviously handle her position. We had one mistake but if we have only mistake all day, I can handle that."
After NMCC scored a single run in the first inning off of passed balls and a Delta error, the Lady Bobcats looked ready to even the game in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Courtney Beggs reached first on a bunt single and advanced to second on an overthrow. After a sacrifice, Beggs stood at third with two outs, but Robey wasn't phased.
The senior struck out the next batter and ended the Delta threat, which was to be the last of the game for the Lady Bobcats.
"I like the pressure," Robey said. "I think I pitch better in a pressure situation because it is just easier to pitch that way. Whenever I pitch (under pressure) I know I have to throw strikes."
Robey continued to throw strikes the rest of the contest, dispatching 13 Lady Bobcat hitters by way of strikeout while Delta only saw two more runners reach base -- one by error and the other on a passed ball on a strikeout.
"Kelly is Kelly and in my mind she is the best there is in this part of the country.," Rogers said. "She's going to school (Union) on a scholarship and it's just been a pleasure watching her work. She is a true craftsman and the girls rally behind her."
Those who didn't strike out were put out by a Lady Eagle defense that was ready for the bunts and slap hits.
"We practiced for it," Robey said. "We knew we were going to have to play Delta and knew we were going to have to practice that slap defense and covering bunts and that is what we expected."
While Robey was mowing down hitters, the Lady Eagles began to score runs to put the game out of reach in the top of the third.
Dallas Campbell led off the inning with a single and then stole second, scoring on a Robey single. Hunter followed with a single of her own, plating Mary Cara Hayes who was running for Robey. Meredith Stanley then singled home Hunter and NMCC led 4-0.
"Our hitting was phenomenal today," Robey said. "We just came through in clutch situations."
A double by Katie Rausch in the fourth plated two more runs before NMCC put the game well out of reach in the fifth. Helped by RBI singles from Hunter and Nikki Martin, the Lady Eagles scored five times in the inning and after holding Delta in the bottom of the frame, won by the 10-run rule.
NMCC had eight hits in the game, including two from Hunter who had four hits in two games on the day.
"I think we are seeing the ball and making contact better than we have been," Hunter said. "I think some of us are making a lot better strides with our hitting."
With the win, Delta falls to 6-1 while NMCC improves to 6-0. The two teams will meet again at NMCC on Wednesday, one of four games for the Lady Eagles this week.
|NMCC||103 25 -- 11 8 2|
|Delta||000 00 -- 0 1 6|
WP -- Kelly Robey. LP -- Myra Henson. 2B -- (N) Katie Rausch.
NMCC 3, Kennett 1
In the tournament opener, NMCC defeated Kennett 3-1.
NMCC's Sara Chapin scored two of the Lady Eagles' three runs. Chapin singled and scored a run in the second inning on a Martin double and scored again in the sixth, when after reaching on an error and stealing second, Chapin came around to score on a Madison Zuck single.
The Lady Eagles' only other run came in the fifth inning when Emma Karafa singled and scored on a Hunter single.
NMCC had 10 hits in the game, but had trouble plating runs as many hard hit balls went right to Kennett defenders.
"We hit into some tough luck," Rogers said. "Kennett is a pretty good team and we knew the competition was going to be tough in the tournament."
Robey was dominate in the circle for NMCC, striking out 17, allowing only one run in the top of the seventh when Shayla Jansson doubled and then was able to steal third and home.
"We played better today than we have all year," Robey said. "Our hitting came together today. Our fielding had some flubs but overall it was better than we had played all season."
Delta defeated Senath-Hornersville in the other semifinal game with Kennett downing the Lady Lions 13-2 in the third place game.
|Kennett||000 000 1 -- 1 1 1|
|NMCC||010 011 X -- 3 10 1|
WP -- Kelly Robey. LP -- Chandler Essary. 2B -- (K) Shayla Jansson; (N) Nikki Martin.