By Noah Dalton
LINTON – Behind a strong second inning performance and some timely late hits, Mitchell High School has advanced to the Class 2A Sectional 47 semifinals after defeating Linton-Stockton on Monday 8-6.
The Miners, playing on their home-field, struck first in the matchup by taking a one-run lead in the bottom of the first when Reagan Kearns singled on a ground ball to center field to bring home Erin Elliott from second base.
The Bluejackets answered right away in the top of the second, scoring four runs of their own in the inning to jump out in front.
The inning began for Mitchell with back-to-back base hits from Emerie Russell and Gracelynn Payton, eventually leading Russell to score the team’s first run of the game after an error from Linton-Stockton as Emma Chastain grounded into a fielder’s choice.
The team’s hot start at the plate continued with another base hit, this time a single from Rylee Brazzell, before a double from Karsyn Coleman in the next at-bat moved Brazzell to third and brought home Chastain to take the lead for the Bluejackets.
Next, Brazzell scored from third after the Miners committed an error attempting to field a fly ball hit by Caitlyn Mullis. Mitchell’s fourth and final run of the inning came on a fly ball hit by Avery Southern to left field, which nearly cleared the fence, but was ultimately caught, as Coleman scored from third.
Both teams were hitless from that point until Linton-Stockton found their way onto the scoreboard again in the bottom of the third, scoring two runs to bring it back to a one-run game after knocking three base hits in a row, with hits from Addilyn Ward and Kylie Cooksey batting in runs.
Mitchell added some much appreciated cushion to their lead in the top of the fifth, scoring another run when a double from Malaya Tanglao batted home Caitlyn Mullis, who hit a double of her own to lead off the inning.
The Miners brought it back within one in the bottom of the inning, after loading the bases with two outs for Abbigail McKee, who hit a hard ground ball that the Bluejackets were not able to field in time to record an the inning-ending out, instead resulting in Maelee Pilant scoring from third.
After their big second inning, Mitchell struggled to hold on to their leads, with Linton-Stockton managing to climb back into the game almost every time.
Despite the constant pushes from Linton-Stockton, Mitchell continued to find timely hits to close out the game. This time, in the form a solo home run from Brazzell in the top of the sixth to make it a 6-4 game.
After nearly clearing the fence in the second inning, Southern hit another deep fly ball in the top of the seventh, this time clearing the fence to score two more runs for the Bluejackets, making it an 8-4 game heading into the final half-inning.
Before she hit the deep shot in the seventh, Canada said he signaled for Southern to bunt in the at-bat in an attempt to advance Mullis to second base. Even though she didn’t get the memo and instead swung for the fences, her coach didn’t mind the result.
“Avery actually missed the bunt sign. The one that Avery hit was actually a bunt sign she hit but hey, it’s a good thing, ” he said. “If you miss the bunt sign, you better hit a two-run homer. So, we’ll let her pass I guess.”
Those two runs scored in the top of the inning proved to be the difference, as Mitchell ultimately walked away with the 8-6 win after the Miners scored two in the bottom of the seventh.
Bluejackets’ head coach Stevie Canada said he felt at times his team carried frustration from their at-bats over to the defensive side, making it difficult for them to stop the scoring, particularly in the bottom of the seventh.
“We’ve got to learn to not take our bats into the field because there were a couple of things there in the seventh that we let go through us. We’ve got a four-run lead, we don’t need to let that take us out of the way. We had the comfortable lead, the girls should have relaxed there but we were playing tight and that’s on us. As coaches, we should have made sure that we’re playing a little loose. Let’s get the outs, let’s get outs, ensure outs,” he said.
The Bluejackets had one of their best days at the plate in some time against Linton-Stockton, notching double digit hits for the first time since their May 5 win over South Knox.
Having faced and beaten the Miners earlier in the season on April 3, Canada said the team was familiar with pitcher Alex Overman, who they faced in the previous game, and knew they’d be able to hit against her.
“We didn’t panic. We had seen that pitcher earlier in the year and we knew that we could hit her, even though we didn’t hit against her earlier in the year, but we knew that we were making progress. We made progress every inning, every inning, and we knew that we were gonna get on it now,” he said.
Caitlyn Mullis led the team with three hits. Behind her were Brazzell with two and Southern, Tanglao, Payton, Russell and Coleman each with one. Southern had a team-high three RBIs, with Tanglao, Brazzell and Coleman each batting in a run.
Southern started the game at the mound for Mitchell, pitching three innings before she was relieved by Coleman, who closed for the Bluejackets.
Southern allowed six hits and three earned runs with three strikeouts during her time at the mound. Coleman gave up four hits and two earned runs, striking out one.
“I’m very proud of the girls. Avery and Karsyn both pitched a heck of a good game. Hitting wise, we did a good job of hitting the ball solid and getting our runs in when we got runners on. So, I’m very proud,” said Canada
Mitchell will take on North Knox (8-13) the following night in the sectional semifinal, a team that Canada said he’ll need to familiarize himself with before the game on Tuesday.
“We don’t know nothing about them. We’re going to kind of watch around and I’ll look up stats and stuff and see what they’ve done. But, I don’t know nothing about hardly any teams here other than the ones that we’ve faced,” he said.