Tuscola softball fights to close finish with West Henderson

Apr. 6—In a battle with one of the Mountain 7's top softball teams, the Tuscola Lady Mountaineer took West Henderson down to the wire in a 4-3 contest on Tuesday.

"That was one of the most solid, consistent performances that we've had all season," Tuscola coach Lindsay Markos said. "We actually out-played West quite a bit. That's why this hurts. We shouldn't have lost that game."

West Henderson came into the contest on a four-game winning streak, outscoring opponents by an average score of 14.5-1.5.

The Lady Falcons had dominated opponents including conference foes North Henderson, Smoky Mountain and Pisgah.

On the other side of the diamond, Tuscola had lost their previous two games to Pisgah and Robbinsville.

"I was so proud of them because of how we had adjusted from the week before," Markos said. "We talked about making adjustments and the consistency and we did that, but we didn't come out with a win and we should have."

While Tuscola didn't manage to win the game against Robbinsville, they played the Black Knights, one of Western North Carolina's best teams, tough.

"For us to play Robbinsville the way we did and then to go and play West as solid as we did, things are only going to continue to get better," Markos said. "We're going to continue to climb and get better."

West Henderson struck first in the top of the first with a single driving in a runner from second.

Tuscola bounced back quickly in the bottom of the first, however.

Sophomore Kinzie Messer got a hold of a pitch, putting a lead-off home run over the center-field fence.

"She is on fire," Markos said. "She's seeing the ball well. She is just crushing the ball. That was huge. I told her to go up there and see the ball and stay hot."

The home run was Messer's second of the week, after hitting a home run on Monday against Robbinsville.

"She's a tiny little thing, but she's got power," Markos said.

In the bottom of the second inning, Tuscola claimed the lead. Sophomore Madisyn Brooks doubled to right field, scoring junior Kenzie Cook from third.

"Throughout the whole season, we've been hitting really well. We've been confident with that and manufacturing runs. We placed the ball well, but we also played a little bit of small ball," Markos said. "It was crucial to take what we could and manufacture those runs."

West Henderson took the lead back in the third with two runs and added on to it in the fourth with another run.

Tuscola wasn't done fighting, however.

In the bottom of the sixth, Brooks hit into a fielder's choice, scoring junior Addi Sampson from third.

"They were all confident," Markos said. "We had every intention of having the game go in our favor right there."

In the bottom of the seventh, Tuscola was able to get themselves back into striking distance.

Messer doubled with one out, putting the tying run in scoring position.

"That was exactly what we needed," Markos said. "We wanted to put the pressure on their defense and on their pitchers, especially since we were hitting both of their pitchers well."

However, the Mounties were not able to move Messer over any further, ending the game down 4-3.

The game was full of bad luck for the Mountaineers. Tuscola out-hit West nine to six. In the circle, Sampson struck out seven batters while West's two pitchers struck out just five. Tuscola stranded eight batters on base in the loss.

"We out-hit them," Markos said. "We out-pitched them and our defense was solid. It really hurts."

Tuscola wrapped up their week with a game at Swain County on Thursday. Markos said the team will take Friday off to rest before a crucial conference match-up against Smoky Mountain next week.

"It will be a big game," Markos said. "Smoky Mountain is always decent and they're scrappy in every sport. They try their best and they find a way. I'm excited to play them. They have a younger team similar to us."