BENTON -- In a rematch of last year's Class 2 sectional contest, the Kelly Lady Hawks opened up their season on Monday with an 8-5 win over the East Carter County Lady Cardinals.
"They played well, especially for our first game," Kelly coach Rhonda Ratledge said of her team. "I know the girls were all nervous after last year.
"When you go to state and you have to follow that reputation, you get nervous. But I'm glad they got this first game under their belt and saw how well they did."
After building an early 5-3 lead, the Lady Hawks found themselves once again knotted up with East Carter when a two-run Lady Cardinal rally in the top of fifth closed the gap.
It was a key hit by Sydney Vinyard in the bottom of the frame that put Kelly back on top for good.
At the plate with runners on second and third and two outs, Vinyard hit a ground ball up the middle to score Rebecca Hoskins from third for the game-winning run.
An inning later, in the bottom of the sixth, the Lady Hawks were able to add a pair of insurance runs when Marissa Menz laid down a bunt to score Addison Glover. That was followed by a Jessica Worth single that brought home Taylor Pyland.
With an 8-5 advantage in the seventh, Lady Hawks' pitcher Kristy Brucker quickly got a pop out to the catcher before allowing Kellen Smith to reach on a single to short.
Sealing the game in the next at bat, Kelly second baseman Samantha Ratledge cleanly fielded a grounder before tagging out the runner and firing to first for a game-ending double play.
"This is our first game out and we have some younger kids that are having to come in and play," Lady Cardinals' coach Angie Bowman said. "We made a few mistakes, some throwing errors and catching errors.
"I think we could have pulled it out, but you can't make mistakes like that and win."
East Carter's only lead of the game came in the top of the first as lead off hitter Faith Eaves started things out with a double to center field before quickly taking third.
Two at bats later, Eaves crossed the plate on a Courtney Marler single to give the Lady Cardinals a 1-0 advantage.
Not down for long, Kelly was able to put together back-to-back two-run rallies in the first and second frames to go up 4-1 heading into the third.
Coming up in the bottom of the third after East Carter had closed back to within a run at 4-3 with a two-run rally, Menz reached on an error by the first first baseman before home to score on a fielder's interference call at third, giving her team a 5-3 advantage.
Collecting 12 hits on the contest, the Lady Hawks were led by Brucker, who helped her own cause going 3 for 3 at the plate. Vinyard, Stephanie Worth and Jessica Worth each had two hits, including a double by Stephanie.
"All the way up and down the lineup, everybody put the ball in play," Rhonda Ratledge said. "That's what we have to have form here on out."
For East Carter, who had nine hits on the afternoon, Faith Eaves, Courtney Marler and Kellen Smith each had a pair of hits, including a double by Smith.
"We hit the ball really well," Bowman said. "If you play defense like that though, it's hard to overcome with good hitting.
"But they did hit well today and we have some things we have to work on. We know that."
Now 1-0 on the year, the Lady Hawks will host the Chaffee Lady Devils today at 4 p.m.