Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Shamrock’s Three Run Outburst in Sixth Inning Stuns Hamilton

North Harrison used a three run rally in the sixth to bring down Hamilton as their winning streak has now reached 9 games. During the past week, North Harrison had won handily over conference opposition and won their conference tournament. They beat Tri-County 18-1, Gilman City 15-0, and Grundy County 18-0 in conference play. In the conference tournament, they beat Winston 13-1, Grundy County 15-0, and Tri-County 15-1 to win the tournament. The latter three games count as JV games on their schedule; North Harrison held out their senior players for that tournament.

In recent years, North Harrison has been lining up games against bigger schools; this was their third meeting against Hamilton, a former powerhouse team of the Grand River Conference before they left for the KCI. North Harrison had come close the last two years before finally winning this year.
Pitted against Julia Kanoy, the best pitcher that they had faced this year, the only baserunner they could muster in the first two innings was Payton Craig, who reached third on a dropped fly ball by the left fielder. The sun, which is in the went, routinely wreaks havoc with fly balls hit to left field close to the line since the fielder has to turn to their right to make the play. But North Harrison could not get her home as Brandi Rivet struck out, Audry Briggs popped out, and Emma Craig struck out.
Payton Craig and the Shamrocks held the fort through the first three innings, only allowing Gillian Gibler’s walk in the first and Mati Park’s slap hit in the third. Finally, North Harrison used a two out rally in the third to get a run in as Payton Craig hit a screamer that dropped in for a double in left center, a shot that was hit so hard it startled the base ump, who fell to the ground. Payton Craig came all the way around to score on Brandi Rivet’s pop fly that dropped in front of the second baseman and that she beat out, and North Harrison was up 1-0.

But Hamilton fought back all night long, and they did so in the fourth as Gibler reached on a scratch hit when her grounder to Ashlynn Gilpatrick at third took a crooked hop and bounded past her. Ali Trosper reached on a single to right and McKauley Prothero moved them over on a bunt. Graycen Prothero grounded out to first baseman Kami Gibson, who flipped to second baseman Mason Cracraft for the out, but not before a run crossed to tie it at 1.

It looked like the wind would come out of North Harrison’s sails as they could not get anything going in the fourth, normally their big inning. Audry Briggs shot one fair down the line in right for a single. Emma Craig struck out, but Ashlynn Gilpatrick reached on a dropped throw off a bunt and Kami Gibson was safe on a fielder’s choice as Briggs beat out a force play at third. But then Mason Cracraft struck out chasing a high pitch while Carly Rinehart’s soft line drive was right back at the pitcher for the third out.

North Harrison had their backs to the wall in the fifth as Lexi Potts, the 9th hitter for Hamilton, battled to draw a walk and stole second. Mati Park hit a slow roller down the line at third and Ashlynn Gilpatrick didn’t have a chance as Potts took third. With Hamilton threatening to take the lead, Payton Craig restored order by striking out Julia Kanoy and getting Gibler out on a pop fly to end the inning. That gave North Harrison a new lease on life and Payton Craig hit the first pitch she saw from Kanoy over the left field fence to make it 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth.

Hamilton tied it up again in the sixth, but North Harrison dodged another bullet. Ali Trosper faked a bunt, then hit a screamer between first and second that looked like it was headed for extra bases. But first baseman Kami Gibson caught it, fell to the ground, and held onto the ball for the first out. That meant the game was still tied after McKauley Prothero beat out an infield hit, stole second, went to third on a wild pitch, and came home on Graycen Prothero’s groundout to tie it at 2.

But then Kanoy started tiring by the sixth and it showed. Ashlynn Gilpatrick struck out, but Kami Gibson doubled to right center and Mason Cracraft walked on a 3-2 pitch. Carly Rinehart singled to left to load the bases and Rainey Fordyce hit a grounder to the mound. Hamilton got the force at home, but then threw to first in an attempt to complete the double play. But instead of getting the third out of the inning, the throw was to the right field side of first and went down the right field line all the way to the ball. By the time the Hornets had gotten the ball in, Fordyce had circled the bases and North Harrison was up 5-2.

North Harrison hung on, but not without some anxious moments in the seventh. Lexi Potts refused to go down and finally beat out an infield hit to start the seventh; she stole second. The fleet-footed Mati Park was next and hit a grounder to Ashlynn Gilpatrick at third; instead of throwing to first to try to retire Park, she threw to Brandi Rivet covering second; she picked off Potts for the first out.

Julia Kanoy struck out, but then Gillian Gibler singled home Park to make it 5-3 and Ali Trosper singled to right. North Harrison tried to throw out Gibler out at third for the final out, but she was safe, Trosper took second, and a single could tie it.

McKauley Prothero was next, and she hit a grounder to Ashlynn Gilpatrick at third. Prothero had already beaten out one infield hit that night, but Gilpatrick’s throw was in time to get the final out and North Harrison had come away with the victory.

“That was a very athletic team,” said Coach Brandon Craig. “They put pressure on you up and down the lineup, but we had a strong defensive effort and we hit them better as the game progressed.” He said that the best thing about their present winning streak was that they were keeping their focus. “We’ve had no physical or mental letdowns with this bunch.” He said he was pleased that they only gave up two runs during the tournament. Ashlynn Gilpatrick and Carly Rinehart handled the pitching.
The Shamrocks will lose Payton Craig, Brandi Rivet, and Audry Briggs after this year to graduation. But the sky is the limit with North Harrison softball as they have a strong junior high contingent coming up. They beat Hamilton 11-1 on the short field as the varsity contingent was sweating out their victory over Hamilton.

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