Tigers outlast Patriots, sweep season series

Apr. 18—Staked to a quick 4-0 lead over Independence in the top of the first inning, Shady Spring was not going to get comfortable.

"I told them right off the bat, that meant nothing," Tigers coach Nikki Mays said, "because they could come and do the same exact thing. They're a powerhouse hitting team."

The Patriots did just that, and eventually took the lead. This time, though, the Tigers answered and were able to hold on for a 9-7 win Thursday at Larry T. Poe Field in Coal City.

With a little over a week until sectional tournaments begin, Shady picked up its second win over Indy in five days to sweep the season series. The Tigers won Saturday's meeting 11-3 in a game that was made up from a previous rainout.

Brooklynn Blankenship was 3 for 4 with five runs batted in that included a pair of pivotal hits. Her three-run homer in the first highlighted the four-run jump, and her line drive double in the sixth drove in two runs to complete the Tigers' three-run rally for a 9-6 lead after the Patriots had forged ahead.

"I just went up there with confidence," Blankenship said. "I always go into the batter's box just trying to hit the ball. I wasn't expecting to hit a home run. But, honestly, my key goal is just to go up there and make contact. I just go with the flow and see what happens."

After her homer, which came on an 0-1 pitch, the Patriots started to chip away immediately. They scored two runs in the bottom half of the first and another in the third before surging ahead with a three-run fourth.

With one out, Allie Warden reached on an error, stole second and scored on a double by Alli Hypes. Emma Lilly then took the first pitch of her at-bat over the fence in right field for a two-run homer and 6-4 Independence lead.

Shady (8-4) tied it in the fifth on a two-run double by Lacy Osborne before taking control with a two-out rally in the sixth.

Jenna Joyce singled and Avary Bragg walked, and Joyce eventually scored when Brooke Shrewsberry reached on an error. Shrewsberry actually entered the game and took over at first base to satisfy the designated player rule after Raegan Lane, who had filled the role, came in to relieve Bragg.

Blankenship then delivered her double to drive in Bragg and Shrewsberry for a three-run lead.

Lane gutted out the pitching win with 2 1/3 innings of relief. She entered with two outs and the bases loaded in the fifth. She fell behind 2-0 to cleanup hitter Keandra Spurlock, who went into the game hitting .467 with 14 extra-base hits and 30 runs batted in. But Lane got the left-hander to pop out on the foul side of the base at third.

"That was a big deal," Mays said. "We debated what to do with Keandra all night because she's always just there but we decided to go after her and play the gamble with her."

Things got interesting for Lane in the sixth. Ava Parks led it off with an infield single and Kassidy Bradbury and Harmony Mills walked between a groundout to load the bases. Lane then walked Emma Simpson to force in Parks and make it a two-run game. But she struck out Warden and got Hypes on a high popup that Shady second baseman Osborne seemed to breathe a sigh of relief after catching.

In the seventh, Lane was one strike away from completing the only 1-2-3 inning of the night before Parks singled to center. Bradbury followed with a walk, but Lane was able to strike out Paytin Brehm to end it.

"It was just really stressful," Lane said. "We haven't really beat them (much) and I just really wanted to beat them the last couple of years. Last year we had the 'Batgate' and it really just gave me the mentality in the offseason to work harder and want to beat them."

"Batgate," of course, happened in a sectional game between the rivals last year and resulted in Bragg and Mays being ejected because of an illegal bat. The situation involving the Tigers' apparent misinterpretation of the DP rule was similar, but didn't hurt the Tigers this time around.

Lane finished with two hits allowed and an earned run, striking out three and walking four.

The Patriots helped out, stranding 15 baserunners.

Independence (13-10) will visit Westside on Monday. Shady is set to host Region 3 opponent Bluefield in a doubleheader Friday starting at 4:30 p.m.