Bolstered by a steady pitching performance, a few stellar defensive stretches and a pair of opportunistic hits, the Calhoun Lady Jackets cruised past Adairsville 3-1 on Monday afternoon.
The contest was largely defined by the Lady Tigers (2-7, 1-4 in 6-AAA) struggle to generate consistent offense against Calhoun (4-2, 2-2 in 6-AAA) starting pitcher Lona Sims, who held the opposition to one run over seven strong innings in the circle. Displaying great efficiency with her pitches, Sims struck out one and yielded only two hits while navigating around a couple of late Adairsville run-scoring opportunities to help the Lady Jackets to their fourth consecutive win.
“Lona was excellent out there for us today,” Calhoun head coach Diane Smith said. “There were a couple tough situations that she had to work her around, but I was proud of the way she battled and hung in there. It was only her second start of the season, and she just keeps getting better.”
Sims was backed by a couple highlight-worthy fielding plays from the Lady Jackets defense that ultimately erased scoring threats.
Left fielder Espee Reyes notably delivered two clutch, pinpoint throws into second base, the first after securing a deep fly ball in the third and forcing a double play, which was followed by her scooping up a hit in the fourth and wiping out the baserunner during her attempt to snatch an extra base. Second baseman Anna Taylor also prevented a potential base hit with an impressive diving snag on a ball laced near the second base gap.
“Most of the time to win a game you have to not only make the routine plays, but you also have to make a couple exceptional ones,” Smith said. “I think our defense is one of our strengths, and we will have to continue fielding the ball like we did today to be successful.”
Although Calhoun stranded a handful of baserunners across multiple frames, the lineup produced an adequate amount of timely hits to scratch across three runs against Adairsville starter Victoria O’Neal. The offense was sparked by leadoff hitter Carlie Henderson, who finished the contest a perfect 3-for-3 with two singles, a double and two runs scored.
In the bottom portion of the first inning, Henderson reached base by legging out an infield single. After Henderson advanced to third base on a passed ball, Sims helped her own cause by depositing an RBI-single into the right-field grass to help Calhoun jump out to a 1-0 lead.
The Lady Jackets tacked on vital insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth. After Molly Walker initiated the action by pushing through a base hit, Mattie Jane Mashburn advanced the runner with a sacrifice bunt, Reyes reached on an error and Henderson was walked to move runners into a threatening position for Erin Barnes. Barnes delivered by slicing a two-RBI double into right-center to pad the Lady Jackets lead at 3-0.
The two runs proved invaluable, with Adairsville tallying what would have been the tying run in the final inning off of an RBI-bunt by Cortni Jacobs that cut the advantage to 3-1. However, due to the separation recently gained on the scoreboard, Sims was able to swiftly shut the door on the rally by inducing a fly ball out from the next batter.
“We left runners too many runners on base each inning, but I was happy that we were able to come up with those crucial hits when we needed them,” Smith said.
“It’s still early in the season, so we have to get a lot better at taking advantage of runners in scoring position. There is still a lot of room to grow, but I was pleased with the overall team effort.”
The Lady Jackets are on the road on Tuesday to visit Coahulla Creek at 5:30 p.m. They will visit LFO on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.