HARDIN VALLEY — Hardin Valley Academy softball coach Whitney Hickam-Cruze couldn’t hide her frustration Friday night.
“Defensively, we made too many mistakes to win the ballgame and we’re just not getting timely hits,” Hickam-Cruze said after watching her team commit three errors and strand five runners in a 10-5 loss to geographical rival Karns in a non-district game at HVA. “We came back late but you just can’t wait to the last inning to start hitting the ball.”
The Hawks (14-9) never led in the game and fell behind early when the Beavers scored a run in the top of the first inning.
Karns (14-12) got a leadoff single from center fielder Jansen Whitaker before Hawks starting pitcher Mikaela Chavis retired the next two Beavers. Whitaker advanced to second when Mariah Cooper singled. Jansen came home with the game’s first run when Nicole Wilcox singled.
The Hawks pulled even with two out in the bottom of the frame when first baseman Kaleigh Wynne parked a pitch from Karns ace Dae Hedger and parked it over the left-field fence.
Hardin Valley squandered a scoring chance in the second. Chavis singled and was lifted for courtesy runner Sydney Blosser. Hedger then induced Sydney Dukes to strike out. Blosser was then retired when Leslie Beecham reached on a fielder’s choice. Beecham stole second. She was, however, stranded in scoring position when Emalee McCord struck out to end the inning.
Karns regained the lead when it played small ball in the top of the fourth inning and plated two runs to go up 3-1.
\Wilcox reached on an error to lead off the frame. She scored one out later on an RBI single by Haley Lyell. After Lyell reached base, Chavis was relieved by McCord. The Beavers later went up 3-1 when Grace Gordon legged out a bunt single that allowed Olivia Baker to score.
“We played small ball early today,” Karns coach Leah Dailey said. “We’ve had trouble jumping on teams early. We have to play small ball early and put pressure on the other team.”
A two-out rally for the Hawks netted a run in the bottom of the fourth. Chavis had a one-out single. She was retired when Dukes reached on a fielder’s choice. She scored on a triple by Beecham to pull Hardin Valley to within 3-2.
Beecham said she needed to get a big hit.
“We were behind and I wanted to hit the ball hard,” she said. “We hit the ball well at times but we really need to do a better job stringing our hits together.
“We scored five runs so we hit the ball well but we need to do a better job hitting consistently.”
McCord put up a clutch performance in the pitching circle in the top of the fifth when she struck out the side against the heart of the Karns batting order.
“She did a good job keeping us in the game,” Hickam-Cruze said of McCord.
The Beavers scored again in the sixth inning when Whitaker knocked in a run on a sacrifice fly to make the score 4-2.
The Hawks answered in the bottom of the frame. With two outs, Chavis tripled. She would score when Dukes singled.
The Beavers all but put the contest out of reach with six runs in the seventh. Hardin Valley made two errors in the inning and Karns cashed in. One error directly cost the Hawks a run. Wilcox had an RBI double. Alyssa Turner knocked in a run with a triple and Destiney McSwain culminated the big inning with a two-run single.
The Hawks made things interesting in the bottom of the inning. Wynne’s two-run double scored Blosser, who had a pinch-hit single and Haley Cloud, who reached on an error.
Chavis said the Hawks must play better defense.
“We scored five runs,” she said. “We didn’t hit bad.
“I feel like if we can tighten up our defense, then we will get better. I have confidence that we will get better from this experience.”