High Cotten: NH pitcher throws a near no-hitter in area round victory

By JOSEPH ELERSON | News-Telegram Sports Writer

May 3, 2007 - BIRTHRIGHT — Behind a near no-hitter by senior pitcher KayLee Cotten, the North Hopkins Panthers advanced to the regional quarterfinals with a 13-0 win over the Union Hill Lady Bulldogs Wednesday in their area round playoff contest.

"We played strong and played hard and didn't give up many errors," said Cotten. "Coach (Jim) Westbrook prepared us really hard for this game and we did what we were supposed to do."

Cotten held a no-hitter through 6 1/3 innings and faced only four batters over the minimum with a complete game one-hitter while striking out seven batters.

The only baserunners she allowed were on an error to lead off the first inning, an error in the third inning, an error in the fifth inning and a single by Alyssa Jones in the seventh.

"I did pretty good until the last two innings," Cotten said. "At that point, I couldn't get strikes with any fastballs so I had to start throwing off-speed. I am glad that they didn't hit anything off of my off-speed pitches."

The Lady Panthers, who came in as the District 17-A champions, scored runs in every inning but the fifth off Union Hill starter Meagan Anderson.

Courtney Loper scored the Lady Panthers' first run with two outs in the top of the first as she reached on a single to right field, went to second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on a stolen base and scored on an error by the catcher.

In the top of the second inning, North Hopkins' Jessica Harry led off with a single and then courtesy runner Tequira Hood stole second and scored on an error during Tana Hall's at-bat. After a stolen base by Hall during Brandi Loper's at-bat, Loper reached on a single and both runners scored on a double by Cotten for a 3-0 lead.

NH scored one run in the top of the third on a sacrifice bunt by Cayla Newkirk and two runs in the top of the fourth on a double by Chastin Smiddy. After a two-run double by Courtney Loper in the sixth inning, the Lady Panthers capped off the night with a five-run seventh.

In the seventh, the Lady Panthers batted through the lineup as Newkirk opened the inning with a single, went to second on a stolen base, advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on another passed ball.

Ashley Deaton then worked a one-out walk, advanced to second on a wild pitch and went to third on a single by Hall before Brandi Loper then cleared the bases with a single to right field.

With two outs, KayLee Cotten doubled, Smiddy walked and Courtney Loper rounded out the scoring with a bases-clearing single for the 13-0 finale.

Loper finished the game 4-for-5 with four RBI and one run scored, while Cotten went 4-for-5 with three runs scored, one RBI and two doubles.

North Hopkins will now face the winner of the Martins Mill-Campbell matchup in the regional quarterfinals, and Cotten said either team will be a good matchup.

"We have played Martins Mill and Campbell twice and have beaten them both twice," Cotten said. "I think Martins Mill might be a little bit tougher and we haven't played as good of a team since we last played Martins Mill. The game may be tougher either way no matter who we play."

Notes: North Hopkins had eight stolen bases in the game and left six runners on base. ... Martins Mill defeated Campbell 10-2 in their contest. ... The area match-up was originally scheduled to be a three-game series at Mount Pleasant, but was changed to a one-game playoff due to the rainy weather. ... Even though the game was played at North Hopkins, the Lady Panthers were considered the visitors on the scoreboard.

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