By REID TUCKER
The Walton Lady Braves got their first softball win of the 2012 season, posting a 9-6 victory against visiting Paxton in what was going to be either team’s first W of the season.
It looked as though there would be no doubt as to the game’s outcome on Thursday, March 1, what with Walton (1-7) up 7-0 on the Lady Cats (0-3), who also have yet to get a win a few games into their season, by the bottom of the fifth inning.
However, when Walton’s pitcher, Kayla Atchley, walked three of the first five batters and gave up two doubles and a single it set the ‘Cats up for a counterattack. Paxton added six runs before Walton could get three outs and suddenly the Lady Braves had a shootout on their hands. Nevertheless, Walton managed to hold off the Lady Cats’ comeback attempt by adding a further three runs in the bottom of the sixth to clench the win, something that made Walton coach Randi McKie extremely proud, even if it was a little too close for comfort.
“We’ve had teams come back on us before,” she said. “The thought that we were about to lose another one that way definitely crossed my mind but we hit the ball better tonight and we kept our errors down, so those were the main things that helped us get the win. If you can play a clean ballgame chances are you’ll get a win.”
True to McKie’s estimation, Walton did indeed hit the ball better than it has against its previous seven opponents, with five batters getting on base a total of seven times. Sophomore Kaitlyn Green led the Lady Braves in scoring, with two hits and three runs to her credit, while Herndon and Kayla Chancey scored two apiece.
Paxton had one more hit as a team than did Walton, as three batters, Brazile, Leah Infinger and Amber Eckerle, got two hits apiece. All the Lady Cats’ runs came via different players and they came in rapid succession in the sixth inning due to a combination of walks and well-timed RBIs from Infinger, Haley Revette and Bethany Neale.
It was a virtual dead heat from the mound, as Brazile struck out eight Walton batters, but walked 12 and gave up seven hits, whereas Walton’s Atchley had four Ks, and had an identical seven hits and walks. Atchley had a terrific clutch performance in the top of the seventh when she struck out the first two Paxton batters and turned a quick play, scooping up a hard ground ball and firing it to waiting first baseman Kaylyn Douglass to make the final out.
McKie said Atchley’s pitching is continuing to improve and that the freshman’s solid work ethic and drive to win will no doubt pay dividends for the Lady Braves down the road.
“She struggled a little bit early on but I knew she’d pull through for us when we really needed her,” McKie said.