Grace Kiser brought the bat, Morgan Smith brought the leather, and the Lady Cardinals rediscovered victory in Toast.
On an evening where everyone seemed to be hitting, fifth-ranked East Surry rose two home runs from its sophomore shortstop and three dazzling defensive plays from her classmate in left field, and the Lady Cardinals claimed a 15-4 victory over North Surry in a game that never seemed nearly as one-sided as that score suggests.
“I don’t know what Coach (Willie) Hodges does when we come up here, but it seems like we never play a good game up here for some reason,” said East Surry head coach Randy Marion. Three years ago, we come up here and get up 10-1 and end up getting beat 11-10. Last year, we play 14 innings here and end up getting beat 2-1. So it was nice to come up here and finally play a good all-around game.”
East Surry (9-3 overall) led throughout, but the Lady Hounds collected eight hits and had several other well-hit balls against Lady Cardinal ace pitcher Autumn Lawson. With the ball carrying well, it came down a test of fortitude for last year’s Northwest 1A Conference player of the year — with a little help from her defense.
It was clear to anyone who saw the JV teams play in the early game that the ball was lively in Greyhound country on Wednesday, and the home team was at a bit of a disadvantage from the start. North Surry had played Surry Central in a league game the night before, and initially held out its top pitcher, senior Drew Beamer. However, teammates Madison Bowman and Abby Draughn weren’t fooling any of the Lady Cardinals. In the top of the first, Bethany Clayton and Anna-Kate Badgett opened the game with back-to-back singles, and after Lawson drove in the game’s first run, Kiser drilled a Bowman offering over the left-field fence to make it 3-0. Draughn came on and got North out of the inning.
In the last of the first, the Lady Hounds got two of those runs back, thanks to hits by Makara Woodbury and Bowman and a bases-loaded walk from Mia Simmons. But East Surry quickly struck back against Draughn on the mound. Kelsey Heflin was hit by a pitch leading off, and Clayton drove her in with a double. One out later, Lawson doubled to right and it was 5-2. The Lady Cards kept pouring it on, with Allie Bruner singling in courtesy runner Hali Scott, and Kristin Hicks following with a double to score courtesy runner Leah Hayes. With the score 7-2, North head coach Willie Hodges had no choice but to put Beamer on the mound. Maggie Holt singled in Hicks to make it 8-2, but then the Lady Hounds’ ace pitched her team out of the inning.
North Surry hammered the ball in the bottom of the second, but it hit too many balls in the wrong direction.
Draughn led the inning off with a single. Then Evann Shelnutt launched a deep, looping line drive toward the right-field corner that looked certain to go for extra bases. But Smith raced to her right and made a shoestring catch on the ball just inside the foul line, a few feet short of the fence, and tumbled to the ground in foul territory. Woodbury singled in Draughn with two out, but Smith wasn’t done. Beamer stepped up and lashed a hard-hit ball to left. Smith couldn’t make the catch on this one, but she quickly recovered and rifled the ball to third baseman Sarah Marion, who had courtesy runner Natalie Eaton out by four feet to end the inning.
“That was an incredible defensive game by Morgan,” Coach Marion said. “That play she made in the left-field corner was one of the best plays I’ve seen made in a long time.”
For the next few innings, Lawson and Beamer were the bosses for their respective teams, keeping the sluggers in check. Smith made a brilliant running catch of a Texas League popup by Simmons in the third, but no one else scored until the fourth. Kiser led off the inning with her second homer, and Holt drove in a run with a sac fly to make it 10-3.
“Finally, Grace is starting to come out of her hole a little bit,” Coach Marion said. “She’s a great hitter, but she’s been struggling a little bit and having bad approaches at the plate, but now she’s starting to see the ball and hit it well.”
Shelnutt doubled off Lawson in the fourth, but the Lady Cards held and then added one in the top of the fifth, with Lawson singing home Clayton. North Surry strung together two-out hits from Bowman, Simmons and Olivia Jones in their half-inning, but Lawson whiffed Karlie Marion with two on to stop the rally.
“Give them credit, they did a great job of hitting the ball,” said Coach Marion. “But Autumn did a good job throwing the ball tonight against them.”
Beamer should have gotten out of the top of the sixth with no damage after Smith doubled leading off, but an error extended the inning. Smith scored on a wild pitch, and a walk to Clayton was followed by back-to-back singles from Badgett and Lawson that played three runs and extended the lead to 15-4. Lawson struck out two batters in a 1-2-3 last of the sixth to end it.
North Surry is slated to host Carver today, while the Lady Cardinals are off until they host North next Wednesday.
East Surry 10, S. Stokes 0
On Tuesday night, East kept pace in the Northwest 1A Conference standings and Clayton had another monster day at the plate as East routed conference newcomer South Stokes 10-0 in six innings on Tuesday afternoon.
The Lady Cardinals (8-3 overall) were held off the scoreboard in the first inning, but then scored two runs in the second, four in the third, one in the fourth and finally walked off with three in the bottom of the sixth to end the game one inning early.
Clayton, whose numbers already looked like something from a video game gone haywire, went 5-for-5 at the plate with five RBI in the win. Counting Wednesday’s results, she is now batting .625 (30-for-48) with 19 runs scored and 16 RBI in 12 games. Clayton and Bruner both doubled for the Lady Cardinals, while Tynlee Jones, Hicks, Badgett, Holt and Ally McCraw also collected one hit each. Heflin walked twice and scored both times, while Holt also crossed the plate twice.
Lawson started the game and threw three shutout innings, with Scott wrapping things up with three scoreless innings of her own.