Prep Softball: Boyle rallies past Mercer 4-3 in clash of regional contenders
Boyle County third baseman Cullen Byrne (7) tags out Mercer County's Megan Hilbert during the third inning of Boyle's 4-3 win Wednesday. The Rebels rallied with four runs in their final at-bat. (Clay Jackson / April 12, 2012)
The first game lasted 6 1/2 innings and belonged to Mercer County, which used dominating pitching to keep Boyle County off the bases and took advantage of Boyle’s mistakes to take control.
The second game lasted only half an inning, which is all it took for Boyle to undo what Mercer had done to that point. The Rebels used two timely hits and Mercer’s own mistakes to score four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning for a 4-3 victory in a battle between two of the 12th Region’s winningest teams.
Amy Woolum completed Boyle’s comeback with a two-out double that drove in the tying and winning runs and sent her teammates rushing toward second base for a celebration that seemed unlikely only seconds earlier.
“It’s fantastic,” Woolum said of seeing the celebration heading toward her. “There’s nothing else you can say, other than it just feels so good to have everybody there.”
Only one Boyle batter reached base before the seventh inning, when the Rebels (11-9) had two of their three hits and took advantage of two Mercer errors and two passed balls that allowed runners to reach base after strikeouts.
“They started to show a little life, and I just said, ‘You’ve got to go one pitch at a time, and let’s put the bat on the ball and see what happens,’” Boyle coach Brian Deem said. “Tonight’s game was a result of great pitching and bad defense and offenses taking advantage of mistakes. Nobody hit the ball fantastic tonight. You had two great pitchers going head to head, and we were fortunate to come out on the winning end in the late innings. That’s why you play seven and not five or six.”
Pitchers Hannah Miniard of Boyle and Tabby Shewmaker of Mercer kept their opponents’ scoring chances to a minimum.
Miniard, who recently transferred to Boyle from Garrard County, allowed three unearned runs on six hits and two walks and had 10 strikeouts. Shewmaker, who was charged with three earned runs, allowed three hits and didn’t walk a batter and also had 10 strikeouts, including three in the seventh inning.
“She’s one of the best pitchers in the region,” Woolum said of Shewmaker. “She’s a great pitcher; we just came back.”
Mercer coach Stephen Lyons said the Titans gave the Rebels more than a little help toward that end.
“I told my girls, ‘We played really well for 6 1/2 innings, and we flat gave it away in the end,’” Lyons said. “We gave it away. We were up 3-0, and Boyle County’s at the middle to the bottom of their lineup, and we make silly, stupid errors. And when you do that, the other team’s going to capitalize. You’ve got to tip your cap to Boyle County. They played well; they did what they needed to do when the time came, and we didn’t.
Boyle’s big inning began when Heather Hasty reached base on a passed ball, and the Rebels loaded the bases when Miniard reached on an error and Danielle Mason singled.
Pinch-runner Shelby Bishop scored on a fielder’s choice, and Miniard scored when Sammi Key reached base after a strikeout. One out later, Woolum came to the plate after pinch-runner Cullen Byrne had stolen second base to give Boyle runners at second and third.
Woolum had lined out to first base and grounded to shortstop in her first two at-bats, but this time she got the ball out of the infield with ease to give Boyle its fourth consecutive win.
“I struggled a little bit with my first two (at-bats), but I came back and I got the hit, and I’m very proud of myself for that. Not only am I proud of myself, but I’m proud of my team,” she said.
Deem said he was pleased that the Rebels did in the late innings what they weren’t doing early in the game.
“I was a little frustrated. I think we came to play not to lose this game. Lately we’ve been playing well, playing to win,” he said. “Tabby took over and got in a groove and we let her get in our heads. We didn’t compete until about the fifth inning. We started putting the bat on the ball and gave ourselves a chance to get some runners on base. They made some great defensive plays, but we were starting to put the bat on the ball.”
“We have so much intensity, and we always stay up, we’re always ready to compete,” Woolum added. “It was just a matter of pulling together as a team and working together, and that’s what you’ve got to do if you want to win region and make it to state.”
Both Boyle and Mercer have designs on doing that, and Lyons said this disappointing loss did nothing to hurt the Titans’ chances.
“This game means something pride-wise, but as far as being tactical, it doesn’t mean anything to us at this point,” Lyons said.
“Our time is coming. This really doesn’t mean anything to us because we’re not in (Boyle’s) district. They’ll see us again over at our (field on May 11), and maybe in the regional we’ll be lucky enough to go against them.”
Consecutive singles by Megan Osborne and Stacia Bryant and an error that allowed Taylor Readnower to reach base led to Mercer’s three-run fourth inning. Osborne scored on a fielder’s choice, a two-out single by Taylor Schroeder drove in pinch-runner Lyric Houston, and Readnower came home on an error on the same play.
The Titans (9-5) threatened again in the fifth when two runners reached on errors and moved to second and third on a passed ball, but Miniard struck out the last two batters in the inning to end the threat and start a string of five straight strikeouts. She also pitched out of trouble in the seventh inning, when Mercer had runners at first and third with one out.
Mercer County 000 300 0 — 3 6 2
Boyle County 000 000 4 — 4 3 4
Tabby Shewmaker and Ashley Harley. Hannah Miniard and Heather Hasty. W—Miniard. L—Shewmaker. 2B—Amy Woolum (BC).