Photo: Glencoe High’s Skylar Thompson (left) scores a third-inning run as Hokes Bluff catcher Maddie Smith awaits the throw during the Lady Eagles’ 4-3 victory in girls softball last Monday (Apr. 2) at HBHS. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
The Hokes Bluff High softball team made the most of its opportunities late in the game against Glencoe last Monday (Apr. 2).
Trailing by two runs and down to their final five outs, the Lady Eagles rallied for a 4-3 victory over their county rival at HBHS.
Emilee Latronico hit a home run for Hokes Bluff and drove in the walkoff game-winning run, while winning pitcher Kileigh Blackwell held the Lady Yellow Jackets scoreless over the final four innings.
“We hit sporadically over the first few innings, but we were finally able to string some together and punch a few runs in,” said Hokes Bluff head coach Jana Smith. “We made some errors early on that hurt us, but we were able to get out innings when they had runners on base. Instead of folding on those errors, our defense came back from them, and that was good to see.”
With the Lady Eagles down 3-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Madison Ingram smoked a one-out double. Kennedy Fox and Whitney Hutt reached first base on fielding errors, the second of which plated Ingram. Bella Pierce’s sacrifice fly later in the inning scored Fox to tie the game.
Blackwell then held the Lady Jackets at bay in the top of the seventh. Glencoe threatened to regain the lead when Aubrey Gray had a bunt single and Gracey Gough got on base with a fielder’s choice, but Blackwell got her team out of the innings by inducing an infield groundout.
Bailee Latronico led off the bottom of the inning, and she and Glencoe pitcher Hylan Higdon battled through an eight-pitch at-bat before Latronico finally drew a walk.
Maddie Smith bunted Latronico to second base, and Mackenzie Coffelt loaded the bases with an infield single.
That brought up Emilee Latronico, who lifted the first pitch she saw to deep leftfield. Sidney Burns caught the ball at the fence and immediately threw home, but Bailee Latronico tagged up and scored the winning run well before ball arrived.
“Emilee played really well today, and she came through when we needed her,” said Smith.
Blackwell pitched all seven innings for the win, scattering nine hits while allowing two earned runs and three walks. She had three strikeouts.
“Kileigh’s just an eighth grader, so that was impressive in how she performed in a tight situation,” said Smith. “She’s pitched some varsity games but mostly JV, so today was really big. She stepped up and threw strikes and got outs when we needed them.”
Glencoe wound up stranding 10 baserunners, including seven in scoring position.
“We’re the best four-inning team in the state,” said Glencoe head coach Tommy Stanley. “In just about every game, we’ve led through four innings and just can’t put people away. That’s my fault, and it’s nothing against our girls. We had the bases loaded several times today with one out or less and we couldn’t score, and it’s tough to win games that way. I’ve got to do a better job of teaching our girls how to hit and how to field. But give Hokes Bluff credit; they had every opportunity to quit, and they didn’t and they did what they had to do to win.”
Higdon also went the distance, allowing eight hits, three earned runs and three walks with four strikeouts.
“Hylan battled well kept us in the ballgame,” said Stanley. “She kept getting people out and we kept leaving runners on base.”
Ingram went 2-for-2 with a run scored, while Coffelt had a pair of hits. For Glencoe, Burns went 2-for-3, while Higdon and Skylar Thompson each went 2-for-4 with an RBI and run scored.
The Lady Eagles dodged a bullet in the top of the first inning when Glencoe loaded the bases with one out. But the host escaped damage when Blackwell induced two straight flyouts.
In the second, the Lady Yellow Jackets had runners on second and third with two out but failed to cash in.
By the same token, the hosts could not solve Higdon in the early going. Over the first three innings, she limited Glencoe to one hit and three baserunners, just one of whom made it past first base.
The Lady Jackets finally broke through in the third. Skylar Thompson legged out a triple to start off the inning and Evan Burns reach base on an error.
Higdon singled in Thompson, and Burns came home via a sacrifice fly from Madalin Gorham. Gracey Gough soon made it 3-0 with her RBI base hit, but that was the last time Glencoe would cross home plate.
Hokes Bluff got on the scoreboard with a bang when Emilee Latronico went yard on the first pitch of the bottom of the fourth. The Lady Eagles put five more runners on base over the next two innings but Higdon escaped trouble in each case.
The Lady Yellow Jackets had an opportunity to tack on some insurance in the top of the sixth with the bases loaded and one out, but Blackwell once more extinguished the threat.
“This was a rivalry game, so everyone was worked up,” said Smith. “They’d already beaten us once this year, so we were kind of foaming at the mouth.”