NH takes advantage of Cumby miscues in bi-district victory
Tyler Clifton | News-Telegram Sports Writer

May 5, 2004 -- COMO -- North Hopkins head coach Jim Westbrook lost the coin toss before Tuesday night's playoff game against Cumby, so his visiting Lady Panthers went out and did what they do best -- getting on base and manufacturing runs.

NHHS took advantage of five Lady Trojan errors, and a four-run, first-inning outburst was all they needed in a 10-1 win at the Como-Pickton High School softball field.

The Lady Panthers will face Sam Rayburn in the second round in a game tentatively set for next Tuesday night at Paris Junior College.

North Hopkins' Hanna Hankins and Sara Weir each had two hits and two RBIs, and Lindsey Horne knocked in two runs. Ashley Wilson had two hits and Hope Harber scored three times, while Megan Baxter and Mary Casey each crossed the plate twice.

"It got easy for us after the first inning, because the four runs made us a lot more confident for the rest of the game," Hankins said. "We did a lot of good things out there tonight, and we all seemed to be having fun."

Lady Panther ace Lacie Palmer struck out seven and walked none, while allowing only five hits and one run. Her counterpart, Kasidy Huddleston, struck out three, but her four walks combined with the defensive miscues became her undoing.

Casey led off the third with an infield single, reached second on Weir's sacrifice bunt and scored on Scarlet Thompson's RBI single to right, but it didn't come without a scare. Casey, who will represent her school next week in the state track meet, collided with catcher Katy Huddleston and remained on the ground for a few minutes. Fortunately for her, she came out of it with only a busted lip.

Thompson reached third when Huddleston couldn't corral the throw from Dani Baur and scored on Ashley Hooten's RBI ground out. Harber reached on an error in the fourth and scored on Hankins' RBI hit to left for an 8-0 lead. Some nifty glove work from CHS second baseman Stefany Baxter kept the Lady Panthers (14-9) from getting more, as she snared Weir's line drive and threw out Casey at first for a double play.

Cumby's Karen Lacy singled in the fifth, but Palmer refused to cave in, retiring the final two batters. Harber tripled into the right-field corner to lead off the sixth and scored on Horne's RBI grounder.

The Lady Trojans (9-6) broke Palmer's shut-out bid, as Megan Strickland singled, stole second and slid safely into third on a Kacie Wade single between short and third. Harber made a juggling catch at third off a line drive, before Katy Huddleston drove home Strickland with an RBI ground out.

"Their pitcher did a good job of keeping us off base," Katy Huddleston said. "She didn't give us anything.

"We're proud of what we accomplished this year, but it's sad because some of us are graduating. It was a fun season though, and we learned a lot."

Megan Baxter scored on Hankins' RBI single to left in the first, while Weir drove home Hankins and Casey with her hit to right to cap the Lady Panthers' four-run first inning. Baxter crossed the plate again in the second on Horne's line-drive hit to center for a 5-0 lead after two.

Katy Huddleston singled in the bottom of the second, before Palmer retired the next three batters in order. Strickland, who led the team with her two hits, had a two-out, bunt single in the third but was also stranded.

Palmer retired 12 of the first 14 batters she faced through four innings. She had a three-ball count on only one batter and got eight ground ball outs. Weir robbed Kasidy Huddleston of hits twice, while Harber kept Katy Huddleston from reaching base in the fourth.

"We had great defense tonight," Westbrook said. "Lacie Palmer was great on the mound and didn't walk anybody. We hit the ball well too."

It was the final game for CHS head coach Jason Wallen, who will coach at Boles next season and had the unenviable task of breaking the news to his team after the game. He said to give credit where it was due.

"I thought we played well the fourth through seventh innings, but we came out stiff the first three," Wallen said. "We started to hit the ball well but weren't able to overcome some obstacles.

"I'm taking nothing away from what North Hopkins did. They have an excellent defense and did a great job. I think they can go pretty deep."

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