Lady Panthers advance to quarterfinals with win over Merit Bland
Joseph Elerson | News-Telegram Sports Writer

May 4, 2005 - QUINLAN - Senior Laci Palmer made sure the North Hopkins Lady Panthers were advancing to the Class A, Region 2 quarterfinals next weekend.

Palmer pitched a complete game six-hitter while striking out 11 batters against the Merit Bland Lady Tigers in a 7-3 bi-district win at the Larry Johnson Athletic Complex Tuesday night.

With bi-district action actually beginning this weekend, the two teams decided to play the game early because of the North Hopkins senior trip this weekend.

"We played this game early because they wanted to do that and we have Senior trip coming up and so we are just playing early and then we have a week and a half to get ready for McLeod," NHHS coach Jim Westbrook said.

North Hopkins is now 17-9 on the season and will face the McLeod Lady Longhorns in the regional quarterfinals next week. Bland ends the season at 15-5.

"McLeod is ranked No. 3 or 4 in the state, and they had a bye in the first round of the playoffs," Westbrook said. "Laci is pitching real well right now, and our next game is going to be tough."

North Hopkins jumped out to the early lead in the top of the first inning off of Bland starting pitcher Amanda Twiss, as they batted through the lineup for a 5-0 lead.

The first four Lady Panthers batters all hit safely as Ashley Wilson started off the inning with a single and stole second, Maegan Baxter then got on with a single, followed by an RBI single from Ashley Hooten for a 1-0 lead.

Palmer then knocked in Baxter with an RBI single, and Elizabeth McPherson drove in Hooten for a 3-0 lead followed by an RBI single from Sara Weir, a fielder's choice by Chancey Harber, and Cayla Newkirk rounded out the scoring with an RBI single to score Weir for the 5-0 lead.

"We lost that intensity, but the main thing was we were lucky those first two innings," the coach said. "We put a little pressure on their defense and they folded, and then we didn't continue to put pressure on them.

"Really, we didn't deserve the five runs and it should have been a 2-0 ball game. We didn't hit the ball hard more than five times tonight."

The Lady Tigers went three up and three down in the first two innings as Palmer had four strikeouts of the first six batters.

North Hopkins was able to score two more runs in the second inning off of Twiss as Baxter scored her second run of the game on a fielder's choice grounder by McPherson for a 6-0 lead, and then Katy Williams scored the Lady Panthers' final run on an error by Bland for a 7-0 lead.

Bland scored all three of its runs in the bottom of the sixth inning as Kristin Smith and Candi Brooks both singled. With two outs, Twiss then cleared the bases with an RBI single, scoring Smith from third for a 7-1 deficit. McPherson then bobbled the ball in left field as Brooks came to score from first and Twiss followed behind to make the score, 7-3.

Wilson said the team needs to work on their fielding work during practice this week to be able to advance past McLeod next week.

"I think we need to work on some fielding and hitting some more," Wilson said. "We haven't done a lot of fielding work and have been strictly working on hitting during practice."

Twiss went 1-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored for the Lady Tigers, while Brooks, Clark, Scarlett Brixey, Poe and Smith had a hit in the loss.

McPherson led the way for the Lady Panthers at the plate going 2-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored, while teammates Newkirk, Williams, Palmer and Hooten each had two hits in the game.

"I think we definitely need to work on our hitting some more during practice," Baxter said. "We have got to get on base and score a lot more and work on our fielding."

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