John Curtis Daily Union Sports Editor
Shelbyville Daily Union
---- — Central A&M softball knocked off the Shelbyville machine on Tuesday, as the Rams slipped some gears and the Raiders did the little things right, winning 4-3. It was the second 1-run loss in two days as the Rams have faded from the OVC title hunt. They lost to Meridian on Monday, 3-2.
The Raiders defense made plays. Diminutive Raider hurdler Lexee Smith threw strikes and threw at a speed the Rams couldn't adjust to consistently. The Rams clobbered some pitches, but they sent too many too high and the Raiders made the catches.
When the Rams did shoot some liners, again, the Raiders made the plays. Shelby also wasted two base runners in scoring position, in a 1-run loss, on poor base running decisions.
The Rams scored a run in the 1st for an early lead. But they only got one run through four innings.
Jensen Cloe led off the game with a single and Kayla Brachbill doubled. With two on and no outs, Grace Moll popped out to the catcher. Madison Boone skied a ball into center field and Kaley Hennings squeezed it. Cloe tagged and scored.
Brandy Smith singled, but Brachbill held up at 3rd. Watton reached on catcher interference to load the bases with two outs. Rachel Fox hit a screaming liner into center field that would have scored at least one run, maybe two. But, Hennings came in and caught it for the 3rd out.
Shelby went in order in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th innings. In the 3rd, Moll had a 1-out single and went to 2nd on a wild pitch, but rounded 2nd and was caught off. Boone then blasted a shot into deep right-center. Hennings got on her horse and the former middle school track star tracked it down in stride.
Ram starter Grace Moll and new battery-mate Jensen Cloe were making it work. Moll was giving Cloe a tutorial about how to catch her and the Rams had a 1-0 lead through three innings. Moll had seven Ks and didn't allow a base runner in three innings. Then Moll was lifted in the 4th and the Raiders went to work.
A&M scored two runs in the 4th to take a 2-1 lead. Taylor Jordan beat out an infield slap hit. She went to 2nd on a wild pitch and stole 3rd. After Kayla Brachbill caught a pop up, Rachel Townsend singled into right and Jordan scored to tie the game, 1-1.
Rachel Friesner followed with a single. Morgan Damery hit into a fielder's choice and Townsend scored for a 2-1 lead.
Shelby answered in the top of the 5th. Mackenize Durbin led off the inning with a single. After Lexee Smith threw a strikeout, Cloe singled. Brachbill followed with an RBI double and Moll grounded out, but drove courtesy runner Courtney Williams home to reclaim the lead, 3-2.
Reliever Abbie Watton clamped down on A&M in the 5th, with back-to-back strikeouts and a pop up to Rachel Fox at 3rd. Shelby could not take advantage in the 6th, but they might have.
With two outs Fox launched a ball to the warning track in left and the fielder couldn't get it. She rounded 2nd and went for 3rd. A good relay gunned her down dead to rights and ended another shot at a Ram insurance run.
Down one in the bottom of the 6th, A&M stepped up. The top of the order was up and Jordan hit another single and stole 2nd. Colby Callan singled and Jordan went to 3rd. With the tying run at 3rd and plenty of speed, Callan stole 2nd without a throw.
With no outs and two runners in scoring position, Rachel Townsend doubled deep in the left-center gap, scoring two runs for a 4-3 lead.
Friesner reached on a bobbled ball at short. With one out, Allison Kresin reached on a fielder's choice as Friesner was out at the plate. Mikah Maples was hit by a pitch. A ground ball ended the Raider rally.
Shelby was only down one in the top of the 7th. Would they finally break out? Nope. A ground out to Callan, 3rd to 1st, was followed by Smith's only walk of the game. Lindsey Eigsti has some speed and she was on 1st, representing the tying run.
The top of the order was up and hopes were high. But, Cloe grounded out to Townsend, short to 1st. With two outs, the tying run was in scoring position. On a 2-2 pitch, Smith froze the batter on a change up and Raiders knocked off Shelbyville.
Central A&M 4, Shelbyville 3
Shelby 100 020 0--3-8-1
A&M 000 202 x--4-6-1
Ram stats: Cloe 2-for-4, 2 runs; Brachbill 2-for-4, 2-2Bs, RBI; Moll 1-for-3, RBI; Boone 0-for-2, sac, RBI; Smith 1-for-3; Watton 0-for-3, ROE; Fox 1-for-3, 2B; Durbin 1-for-3; Eigsti 0-for-2, BB. Pitching (L) Watton 3 IP, 4 runs, 6 hits, 0 BB, 1 HBP, 3 Ks; (Starter) Moll 3 IP, 0 runs, 0 hits, 0 BBs, 7 Ks.
A&M stats: Jordan 2-for-3, 2 SBs, 2 runs; Callan 1-for-3; Townsend 2-for-3, 2B, 3 RBIs; Friesner 1-for-3, ROE; Damery 0-for-3, FC; Kresin 0-for-3, FC; Maples 0-for-2, HBP; Gibson 0-for-3; Hennings 0-for-2. Pitching (W) Smith 7 IP, 2 runs, 8 hits, 1 BB, 4 Ks.
On Monday, the Rams had trouble again with enough timely hitting and base running faux pas and it left the door open for Meridian, despite a good performance by Ram ace Grace Moll.
Sure the Rams out-hit Meridian 7 to 4 with five batters hitting safely. They reached on one error and the Rams had eight free passes, two getting hit. However, Rams were caught stealing three times out of four. Meridian got three free passes, reached on an error, and stole three bases.
Moll threw seven innings, allowing three runs (1 earned) off four hits and three walks, while striking out 13. 63.5% of her pitches were strikes. Doyle got the win going the distance and allowing just two runs on seven hits, walking six and striking out just six. By all accounts the Rams should have won.
Meridian scored first with a 2-run 3rd, both on a passed balls. The Rams have two catchers injured are in search of a catcher who can catch Arkansas-bound Moll.
Shelby got those runs back with a run in the 3rd and the 5th. Meridian won the game on a ground out in the 6th, when the Rams couldn't respond in the 6th and 7th.
Moll walked a batter with one out. The next batter singled and the lead runner went to 3rd. The lead runner scored on a passed ball. Moll walked Doyle. The other runner, now on 3rd, scored on another passed ball, 2-0.
In the 3rd, Jensen Cloe led off with a single and Kayla Brachbill walked. Moll reached on an error and the bases were loaded with no outs. Boone hit a lined shot to left field, but it was caught. Cloe tagged and scored, 2-1.
With two batters still on and only one out, another line out to left field saw Brachbill tagging up and trying to get the 3rd. She was thrown out cutting short the rally.
In the 5th, Cloe started it again, getting hit by a pitch. The next batter flied out and the courtesy runner for Cloe failed to tag the base and was called out. With two outs, Moll walked.
Madison Boone doubled Moll to 3rd. Brandy Smith hit an RBI-single scoring Moll for a tie game, 2-2. Boone had to hold up. Abbie Watton walked, but a strikeout with two men on ended that rally again.
In the 6th, Kirby hit a lead-off triple for Meridian. The next batter grounded out. Moll threw to 1st, but Kirby scored, 3-2.
Shelby only needed one run over the last two innings, but couldn't deliver. Another runner was out on the base paths in the 6th.
Moll did what she could in the 7th, striking out all three Meridian batters. It was up to the Ram hitters in the 7th to extend or win the game.
With two outs, Boone launched her second double in a row. Smith then walked to put the winning run on base. Boone tried to steal 3rd on an 2-0 pitch and was thrown out to end the game. Another runner out on the base paths.
Meridian 3, Shelbyville 2
Shelby 001 010 0--2-7-1
M'dian 002 001 0--3-4-1
Ram stats: Cloe 1-for-2, BB, run; Brachbill 1-for-3, 2B, BB; Moll 0-for-2, BB, sac, ROE, run; Boone 2-for-4, 2B; Smith 1-for-3, BB, SB, RBI; Watton HBP, BB; Fox 2-for-3; Lee 0-for-2, BB; Durbin 0-for-3. Pitching (L) Moll
M'dian stats: Foster 1-for-4, SB, run; Doyle 0-for-2, ROE, BB; Kirby 1-for-3, FC, 3B, run; Comerford 0-for-3, RBI; Kersey 0-for-3; Fonner 2-for-3, SB; Aukamp 0-for-3; Damery 0-for-3; Lewellyn 0-for-1, SB, 2 BBs, run. Pitching (W) Doyle