WU strikes back

A different Lady Eagles’ team took the field in the Nettleton Tournament, as they avenged a preseason loss by handing the Lady Tigers’ their first loss of the season last Saturday.

Nettleton defeated West Union 11-3 in the Lady Eagles’ preseason tournament earlier this month, and after much improvement at the plate along with a strong defensive effort, West Union held on for the 5-3 victory.

We were able to win a couple innings there and had a big three-run inning. I thought we left a couple runners out there, but I think Nettleton is the best of the best, not just in our area, but in the entire state,” West Union head coach Andy Kirk said. “I don’t know if they overlooked us, but I think we hit well and played defense well enough to give them a stiff challenge for a very good 3A team. Hopefully this tournament has done what we expected it to and we can get going in the right direction since we were able to compete.”

Nettleton scored first, as a single plated two runs that were walked earlier in the inning.

West Union answered, as they opened the second with three straight singles by Rachel Baker, April Rollins and Leah Paige Goolsby. An error scored the Lady Eagles’ first run, and West Union would add another in the third after Kimberly Jumper’s double. A single by Robyn Taylor scored Jumper, giving the Lady Eagles the 2-1 edge.

“The main thing has been more focus hitting wise. We’re hitting the barrel more and more balls are coming off the bat better, and I think it’s just the general of finally changing the seasons from fastpitch to slow pitch,” Kirk said of his team’s hitting success versus Nettleton. “That’s the big thing, and just like any other slowpitch team, the more you hit, the more confidence you have. Earlier in the year, we weren’t hitting well and we didn’t have a lot of confidence.”

Kirk watched as his team scored three more runs in the fourth off five hits, as Rollins led off with a single, followed by a double by Goolsby. A sacrifice fly out by Carley Wilkerson scored Rollins, and  singles by  Julianna Garner and Dani Taylor brought in two more runs.

Nettleton cut the deficit in the fifth, scoring two runs, as a single scored one run and a fly out to left center scored the Lady Tigers’ final run. West Union’s defense was able to hold Nettleton in the final two innings, only allowing two hits. The Lady Eagles’ defensive effort was the deciding factor, as five straight outs by Kimberly Jumper helped to spark West Union.

“That was awesome, and you could see how the energy picked up in our dugout when she ran them down,” Kirk said of Jumper.

Goolsby went 3-for-3 in the game, while Rollins, Robyn Taylor and Claire Wilkerson were each 2-for-3. Robyn Taylor has been the biggest contributor this past week, as the senior bated .636 with three homeruns, two doubles and 12 RBI’s in the Lady Eagles’ four games versus Hickory Flat, Amory, Hamilton and Nettleton.

“We went to Hickory Flat on Thursday, and she was my number 10 hitter,” Kirk said. “I put her down there because she only had one hit on the season, then she hit two homeruns over the leftfielder’s head for her second and third, then hit her first homerun over the fence today and hit the fence in another game, so she ended up batting clean-up, and she has really stepped up. For a senior who has played for us, but has not been one of the main players, she had a great week.”

“Leah Paige has so much talent and so much potential,” Kirk added about the junior. “I think she’s put some pressure on herself. She’s played very well at shortstop, and I think she’s a lot more relaxed. She has the potential to be a great player. I think she was a little more relaxed and had more fun today, and we expect that to carry on for the rest of the year.”

Kirk also commended his senior pitcher, Rachel Baker for the big win over Nettleton.

“She threw it deep and short and she had mixed it up. They had a lot of pop ups, and if you’re a good team hitting pop ups, a lot of that has to do with the pitcher.”

West Union went 2-1 in the tournament, picking up the 12-2 win over Hamilton and falling in extra innings to Amory, 10-8.