By Dave Morrison
COAL CITY – Independence coach Ken Adkins pulled the white piece of paper from his pocket and jotted down a quick note: Next time bunt!
It was a reminder that should his team find itself in a similar position against Wyoming East in the Class AA Region 3, Section 1 winner’s bracket game Tuesday in Coal City- runner on third base and less than two outs – resort to small ball.
He found himself in a similar position. He did not heed his own advice.
Wyoming East (22-4) scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and held off a top of the seventh comeback attempt by Independence (19-8) to take the game 5-4 and move into the driver’s seat in the sectional tournament.
Adkins advice was warranted.
Wyoming East ace Holly Brehm and Independence ace Savannah Bragg were on point and one run could be the difference.
Yet resorting to bunting would be a stark departure from what had gotten Independence to this point.
“I made myself a note, next time bunt the ball,” Adkins said. “That was probably my fault. I probably should have pulled the trigger and tried bunting there with Kaylen (Parks, who has seven home runs this season) to try to get the run in. I kept thinking the whole game long, if I can just get to the end of the game with my top (three-four-five in the batting order) up, and we did. I didn’t want take the bats out of their hands.”
Independence was one of the top hitting teams in the region this season.
The game between the two titans of Region 3 once again ended in a 1-run affair.
Nobody saw the final being 5-4 as the game developed.
But the Warriors finally got the bats going in the bottom of the sixth against Bragg, who, to that point, had not allowed a Wyoming East runner past second base.
Brehm got the inning started with a one-out single and Paige Laxton followed hat with another base hit. Olivia Hylton then crushed a double, allowing Brehm to score and the throw to third to get Laxton skipped away, allowing the Warriors catcher to score for a 2-0 lead.
“Getting that hit really boosted my self esteem in general because I haven’t been hitting the greatest,” Hylton said. “I feel like it pumped the rest of team up and got us all rolling.”
It definitely opened the door to a parade of doubles.
After a groundout, Kelsey Green, Trinity Cook and Haleigh Parsons followed with three straight doubles that plated three more runs.
Nobody would have guessed Parsons third double in the bunch and scored Cook would be key.
“I definitely didn’t,” Parsons said. “I just thought, ‘go up there, hit the ball and do what I know how to do and we’ll pull it out. ‘“
To that point the hits had been hard to come by for Wyoming East, who had leaned on Brehm in tight games all season.
Bragg had allowed just three singles before the sixth and didn’t walk a batter.
“She was throwing a lot more of her off-speed, on the outside corner of the plate and it had us on our toes and we were lunging for for it a little bit. She has a really good off speed pitch.”
“I don’t know, we just struggle,” Parsons said. “We know we can hit (the ball), we know we can. We just don’t. But we’re going to. Definitely, starting today, we’re going to. I knew as soon as we started hitting the ball we were going to score a lot of runs.”
Parsons hit was key because Independence mounted an improbable comeback against Brehm, who had allowed just two earned runs all season.
Kylie Nelson and Nicole Kester, who had four hits in the game had singles and Makenzie rocketed a shot near second that was momentarily mishandled, allowing Nelson to score. Kaylen Parks singled to score Kester.
Brehm than got a strikeout and a groundout, the latter scoring Holley. Kester scored on a wild pitch making it 5-4 before Brehm induced a groundout to end the game.
Independence had chances to break through earlier, but each time Brehm pitched out of it.
Kester reached third in her previous three at bats.
She singled and made it to third in the first but Brehm, around a walk to Parks, stuck out the side. Kester led off the third with a triple but again Brehm struck out the side, around issuing a walk to Ashleigh Sexton.
She singed in the fifth, stole two bases and was stranded after a pop out to Laxton and two strikeouts.
“All you can do in this game, and I’ve been around it a long time, is give your self a chance at the end and we did that,” Adkins said. “We have six seniors and you want to end the game with a senior at the plate, with a chance to win and we did that. We had some bad at-bats early and I know we had some girls leaving here like they let us down. But it’s not easy, that’s Holly Brehm.”
The Patriots will face the winner of Wednesday’s Liberty-Westside game on Thursday. That winner faces Wyoming East Friday and will have to beat the Warriors twice to win the section. Wyoming East is a win away from a third straight section title.
Class AA Region 3 Section 1 – Tuesday
Wyoming East 5, Independence 4
Independence 000 000 4 – 4 8 1
Wyoming East 000 005 x – 5 9 1
Battery – I Savannah Bragg and Riley Adkins. WE: Holly Brehm and Paige Laxton. WP – Holly Brehm 134 pitches, 91 strikes, 7.0 IP 8H 4R 4ER 2BB 13K. LP – Savannah Bragg 90 pitches, 63 strikes, 6. IP 9H 5R 5ER 0BB 5K. Hitting – I: Nicole Kester 4-4 (3B, R), Makenzie Holley 1-4 (run, RBI), Kaylen PArks 1-3 (run, RBI), Savannah Bragg (RBI), Riley Adkins 1-4 (2B), Kylie Nelson (run); WE: Jazz Blankenship 1-3, Holly Brehm 1-3 (run), Paige Laxton 1-3 (run), Olivia Hylton 1-3 (2B, run, RBI), Miranda Hurley 1-3, Kelsey Green 1-3 (run, RBI), Trinity Cook 2-3 (2B, run, RBI), Haleigh Parsons 1-3 (2B, RBI).
Records – I: 19-8, WE: 22-4