Eagles hold off Bulldogs in Madison County preview

Mar. 26—LAPEL — A three-run lead late in the game did not feel comfortable enough for Frankton coach Jeremy Parker, and he let his players know of his concern.

"I knew they weren't going to lay down. They're always going to fight. The Frankton-Lapel game is always going to be a good one," he said. "We talked about that before the top of the sixth, and I told them that 4-1 was not going to be enough."

The Eagles responded as Claire Duncan drove in a pair with a double, part of a four-run rally, and the Frankton bats gave plenty of support to the strong starting pitching of Grace Kessinger before holding on for an 8-7 win at Lapel on Tuesday.

Frankton improved to 3-1 while Lapel dropped to 4-2 in the last game for both teams until after spring break when they meet again April 9 in the opening round of the Madison County Tournament.

Duncan also set the tone early for the Eagles, and Kessinger kept the Lapel bats off-balance for most of the game.

Duncan led off the game with a home run, and after Lapel tied the game in the second on a wild pitch, Kessinger got an offensive boost from her catcher as Aubree Engelking lined a home run off the Lapel scoreboard with a runner aboard in the third for a 3-1 lead against Bulldogs starter Karlie Jannings.

"The first pitch, I wasn't prepared for. It was outside, and I wasn't ready for that," Engelking said. "She served me one right down the middle. It felt amazing off the bat."

Kessinger, who had retired the Bulldogs in order in the first and again in the third, got one of the biggest outs of the night in the fourth.

Lapel threatened as Laylah Gore singled with one out, and Paige Stires walked with two out. With runners on second and third, Kessinger froze Jannings with an off-speed pitch over the outside corner for a strikeout to end the threat.

"We had to be careful because we knew (Lapel) was getting back to the top of their order soon," Parker said. "They have dangerous hitters."

"I just took it one pitch at a time and didn't dwell on the last pitch," Kessinger said. "It didn't matter what happened before. I was just moving on and doing my best."

The Eagles added on to the lead when freshman shortstop Avalee Stanley led off the fifth with a home run to left for a 4-1 advantage. Kessinger then worked around a two-out triple by Krystin Davis in the bottom of the inning, bringing the Eagles to the plate for the sixth.

Aly Smith led off with a single, and Paige Parker reached base when her sacrifice bunt attempt was booted for an error. Gracie Smith laid down a successful sacrifice before Kinley LaPierre lined a run-scoring single to right for a 5-1 lead. Duncan followed with a ringing double to left-center on a 3-2 pitch to score Lowyn Coffey and LaPierre. She scored one out later on a single to right by Jilly Hilderbrand to cap the rally and stake Kessinger and the Eagles to an 8-1 lead.

The Bulldogs scored a pair in the sixth against Kessinger, one on a passed ball and the second on an RBI double by Stires. But Kessinger struck out Jannings and Delaney Balser to end the threat and complete her night with eight strikeouts.

"It felt really good out there tonight. I thought the energy was good, and I felt like Aubree always had my back," Kessinger said. "I had good defense behind me. I felt good tonight."

"She was hitting her spots every time," Engelking said. "She pitched really well tonight. I'm proud of her."

Lapel rallied in the seventh against Duncan, who came on in relief of Kessinger. Gore drove home a pair with a single after an error loaded the bases. One out later, Stires doubled home a pair, but a hard-hit grounder by Jannings was picked off by second baseman Jersey Marsh, who threw on to first to end the rally and the game.

It was just another memorable edition of the rivalry between the schools.

"I knew this was going to be a battle and a good game," Lapel coach A.J. Balser said. "I'm just glad it was an 8-7 game at the end and we had a chance to be there. We expect a battle (in two weeks), just like tonight."

Contact Rob Hunt at or 765-640-4886.