By REID TUCKER
Walton stayed perfect five games into the young 2014 softball season, but the 5-4 win over Marianna was anything but a pleasure cruise.
In fact, the Lady Braves (5-0, 1-0 in District 1-4A) looked down for the count. After jumping to a one-run lead in the first inning, sporadic success at the plate left Walton with two outs and down 3-1 to a resurgent Marianna club (3-5, 1-2) in the bottom of the sixth. That’s when things got interesting.
Jasmin Hester, who’d been struck out and reached on a Marianna fielding error in her previous at-bats, made a nice single and Raven Motley was walked. Then out came freshman Jamie Lamb, by far the best player on offense for either team on the night of Feb. 25. She’d already gotten two solid hits and scored Walton’s sole run, but that was nothing compared to the crushing home run shot she sent soaring over the left field fence to score three runs and give Walton the lead.
That was just a sample of the drama that unfolded when Walton and Marianna collided in a critical district early-season district contest. They certainly didn’t want for heroics, as players on both sides made some daring sliding and diving catches on defense while the evening’s highlight on offense was undoubtedly Lamb’s 4-for-4 showing at the plate.
Lamb had two doubles and a single to go along with that spectacular homer, good for two critical RBIs, and she herself rounded the diamond twice – a direct contribution to 4/5 of Walton’s output on offense. Altogether, the Lady Braves had seven hits on the night, the other three being picked up by Motley, Hester and Kiki Bogart, whose hit into the shallow right field gap drove in Jade Larrick for the win.
Defense, on the other hand, was not really Walton’s strong suit this particular evening. Pitcher Laura Hydle hit four batters for a few free trips to first base for the visiting Lady Bulldogs and three unearned runs, though she struck out two Marianna batters and walked none. The Lady Braves also had three errors on the night, two coming by way of easy outs at third base.
Marianna had its own turnaround in the top of the fourth inning, when back-to-back Walton errors at third and first put Alli-Ann Bigale and Shaniah Spellman on-base. A Lexie Bassford double brought them home for a 2-1 lead, then Bassford herself crossed home plate after Reagan Oliver got a double of her own.
As for the Lady Bulldogs’ stats, their first pitcher, Baylee Childs, hit a batter, walked two and allowed two hits, so she was replaced on the mound by Kayleigh Temples in the fourth inning. She had a better time despite giving up the four hits that ultimately enabled Walton to win the game, as she struck out three batters and walked just one. Oliver was Marianna’s best hitter, with a 3-for-4 performance at the plate comprising two doubles and a single plus two RBIs, while Bigale scored two of her team’s runs.
By REID TUCKER