By REID TUCKER
As sports drama goes, it’s hard to improve on seventh-inning comebacks, but it’s especially nice when they do triple-duty as a district win and victory against a pitched rival.
That was exactly the outcome of the Paxton Lady Cats’ 6-5 victory at home against District 1-A foe Laurel Hill on Tuesday, April 2. The Hoboes scrapped to turn an early 3-zip Paxton lead into a 4-3 advantage of their own by the top of the fourth, but the Lady Cats clawed back for a tying run to deadlock the scoreboard over the next three grueling innings. Laurel Hill scored a run on botched tag at home plate, but Paxton had an answer in the form of Chrissy Currid, Layce Miller and Cassidy Brazille, who all stepped up in a big way in the final at-bat of the game.
All three girls reached on singles to load the bases, after which time Laurel Hill pitcher Maddie Varnum walked in Currid for the third tie in the contest. Then up to bat came eight-grader Payton Malloy, who had thus far gone 0-for-2, popping the ball up for easy outs in both cases. However, the last appearance at the plate was definitely no repeat performance, as Malloy crushed a shot past the pitcher’s mound and beyond the outstretched glove of second baseman Sam Purvines, driving in Miller for the win.
Paxton coach Steve Williams said his team, now 5-8 overall and 3-6 in district play, has shown steady improvement over the course of the schedule after getting off to a slow start. If they keep playing like they have been of late, the Lady Cats have a good shot to break .500 before the end of the season, he said.
“They’ve been resilient and they always keep battling,” Williams said. “We’ve had to be tough this year because it was a rough start to the season, but we’re on the way back to where we need to be. We were able to get out of some jams tonight thanks to our seniors, and then for Payton to step up like she did was a great confidence boost for the team. She was due for a hit and she delivered.”
The game was almost entirely driven by action at the plate, as batters from both clubs managed to find the rhythm of the opposing pitchers or were advanced to the next base via the odd fielding error or wild pitch. Brazile, who pitched a complete game for Paxton, had three strikeouts but gave up six hits and had four walks, while Laurel Hill’s Varnum struck out two batters and had seven hits. The Lady Cats and the Hoboes each had two earned runs on the night.
Paxton’s standout batting performance of the game came from Sidney Beck, who went 2-for-2 with two singles and an RBI, though she reached first in all four of her appearances at the plate thanks to an error and a walk. Laurel Hill had three batters all get two hits. Nicole Bailey and Kristen Klevez each went 2-for-2 and Ashley Hatfield was 2-for-2.
The Lady Cats, in the hunt for a third- or four-place seeding going into the district tournament (as such a rank means a home game), traveled to Malone two days later, only to fall 8-7. Paxton led 7-0 after five innings, but Malone tacked on five runs in the bottom of the seventh to get the win. Games between other District 1 teams played Friday, April 5 would determine the eventual tournament seeding, but that information was not available at press time.