GRAYSON – A four-run sixth inning was just what Boyd County was waiting for.
Trailing for much of Tuesday’s contest with East Carter, the Lady Lions strung together five hits in the sixth — singles by Bailey Conley, Graci Borders and Kylie Peterman and RBI doubles from Emma Borders and Megan Castle — to defeat the Lady Raiders, 6-4, at East Carter Middle School.
After Boyd County hitters saw only five pitches in the third inning and four in the fourth, a much-needed adjustment was in store.
“We told our hitters to be patient and let’s make this kid work,” Lady Lions skipper Dave Wheeler said. “You can’t go out there and have a four- or five-pitch inning with a young kid. All that does is builds confidence.”
Boyd County’s hitters heeded the advice, clubbing eight hits over the final three frames, including three doubles.
“We hit throughout the lineup,” Wheeler said. “It wasn’t the top or the middle or the bottom, it was all over, and they were timely hits, too.”
Peterman went a perfect 3 for 3 with a pair of RBIs as Conley added three hits, including a double in the seventh that led to an important insurance run.
“Kylie barreled up a bunch of balls and used all fields,” Wheeler said. “She went foul pole to foul pole. She had a hit to right, one to center and another to left. That’s a pretty good day.”
As great as things went for the Lady Lions (9-4) late, they were equally as difficult in the beginning as Conley found herself in a jam in each of the first four innings. East Carter had runners at second and third with only one out in the first, first and second in the second, loaded with one out in the third and two on with two outs in the fourth.
The end result: only two runs and a total of 12 Lady Raiders stranded on the base paths.
“When you face good competition and teams that hit the ball well … and you don’t take care of these situations, you’re going to get beat a lot of those games,” East Carter coach Derek Calhoun said. “We will come back out tomorrow and get some swings in and get ready for Elliott County on Thursday.”
Wheeler made a visit to the circle in the third but opted to stay with Conley, even though she was struggling with her control. Conley allowed six hits, but she walked seven batters and plunked two more. She had given up only nine walks in 34 innings of work entering the affair.
“Bailey kind of pitched herself into a couple of jams early on, but where she’s an upperclassman, she pitched herself out of those situations,” he said.
Those escape jobs were aided by a duo of stellar plays by Graci Borders. The center fielder robbed Sky Bloemer’s attempt at a grand slam in the third with a catch at the wall to end the inning. She followed with a jumping catch at the fence to end the fourth, stealing a would-be three-run blast by Lindsay Holmes.
“Those are athletic plays,” Wheeler said. “Those aren’t plays that you go out there and practice. Those are plays you go out there and react to. She got a great first step and used her glove to shield the sun and made a couple great plays. Those were not easy plays.”
Borders was aided by her fellow outfielder in left, Tori Badgett, who made a few nice snags of her own.
“I was really impressed with how our outfield played,” Wheeler said. “Graci Borders and Tori Badgett covered a lot of ground out there. Some of the balls would be hits if it was different outfielders.”
The tandem retired 10 of the Lady Raiders’ 21 outs on fly balls.
Bloemer motored her way through the Lady Lions’ order before Calhoun said she simply ran out of gas in the fifth.
“She is a freshman and she’s going to get stronger,” Calhoun said. “The more innings she pitches, the stronger she’s going to get to build up the endurance for a seven-inning game. We had the same thing there with Lewis County earlier this year, she kinda slowed down a little bit and their bats caught up to her and started getting base hits. Same thing happened tonight. We just didn’t get the big hits when we needed them.”
East Carter (10-3) gave itself a chance in the final stanza after Audrey Manning launched a two out, tworun shot to left that cut the deficit to two. Bloemer followed with a double to bring the tying run to the plate in Carra Layne. The leadoff hitter for the Lady Raiders sent a frozen rope directly toward Conley in the circle. She threw up her glove and made the snag to end the contest.
“She told me she didn’t even see it,” Wheeler said. “She was just trying to defend herself.”
Said Calhoun: “Just an absolute play. I’m glad I wasn’t out there pitching when (Layne) hit that ball.”
With the loss, it marks the first time since 2015 the Lady Raiders have suffered back-to-back defeats in a season.