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- Published on Wednesday, 08 August 2012 10:45
Gunnel's catch stops Lady Bearcat charge, key in season's first win
Daily Elk Citian
Never has a team won or lost a championship in its regular season opener — the games generally lack any lasting implications.
Just don't tell that to the Elk City High School softball team.
Tuesday night, when the Elkettes topped Hobart High School 6-5 in its first game of the year, there was plenty of tension, plenty of drama, and plenty at stake.
Elk City (1-0) clung to its 6-5 lead in the top of the sixth inning, after two ECHS overthrows allowed Hobart's Bridget Boman and Kenzie LoBaugh to score. Then with a runner on base and two outs, Emma Gunnell made an inning-ending, diving catch on Hobart's Madison Kruska line drive to shallow right field.
Gunnell said she knew how important her catch was before the ball was even hit, and was even more aware of how much her team needed to win its first game of the young season.
"Coach said someone needed to step up," Gunnell said. "I knew it was crucial and that I needed to get [the ball]. I was going to get it anyway I could. [The Hobart game] was one of the first times in a long time that we started off the season with a win, and it feels great to have the confidence behind us going into the rest of the games this year."
Gunnell shifted from first base to right field in recent weeks, and ECHS assistant coach McKenna Wilson said afterward the play could not have been more clutch.
"If she misses that ball it goes to the fence," Wilson said. "That inning we really could have lost it. [Hobart] had girls on base and [Gunnel] makes a catch like that."
ECHS head coach Lindsey Mudgett applauded Gunnel's hustle in making an attempt at the ball, because many players won't try for diving catches after factoring the "risk-reward" ratio.
"I'd rather see a lot of effort in that situation, than someone just let [the ball] fall in front of her. [Gunnel] hasn't been out there but about a week or so, and she's' really trying to take on that position. It was a really good effort and a great catch. Big play."
In the top of sixth inning, in its last chance of the game to take a lead, Hobart went three-up, three-down. The Elkettes quickly made sure to find the game ball for their head coach, who had just secured her first career coaching win. Mudgett though, said the win was more important for her players.
"I think it was more important for the girls to get that win for a lot of reasons — for starting our season off right, knowing they can win when they're down. It was a back-and-forth game and for them to pull that off is important for them. Now they know that no matter what the circumstance they're in, they can come back and win a game."
Torei Morning got the win for ECHS, throwing five strikeouts and giving up four unearned runs.
Hobart got an early 1-0 lead in the top of the second, but the Elkettes took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third when Randi Cheatham's bunt and a Hobart error allowed Mallory Luttrell to score from first base. Cheatham reached third base on her bunt, then scored on a wild pitch.
After Hobart embarked on a two-run top of the fourth, the pressure was again on the Elkettes, who struggled against Lady Bearcat pitcher Chrissy Hollister — the Hobart hurler struck out 12 batters for the game.
But Elk City stayed within 3-2 until the bottom of the fifth, when it capitalized on Hobart errors and plated four runs to take a 6-3 lead. Cheatham's infield base hit scored Rachel Lamar, then she and Mallory Lutrell both scored on wild pitches. Tori Schones' RBI single hit hard to center field brought home Morning and gave a three-run cushion.
Elk City 6, Hobart 5
Hobart 0102020 - 5 5 1
Elk City 002040x - 6 5 5
The ECHS JV squad fell 8-4 to Hobart Tuesday, but had bright spots, namely from pitcher Tori Schones.
"She pitched well," Mudgett said of the sophomore, who also hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the third, to force a 3-3 tie early.