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By JOSH CLAYWELL firstname.lastname@example.org
CECILIA — Having been shut out in their previous two games, the Central Hardin Lady Bruins were in a little bit of a funk.
After Thursday’s game with visiting 17th District rival John Hardin, Kristina Krupinski and the Lady Bruins are starting to come out of it.
A freshman right-hander, Krupinski tossed a four-hitter as Central Hardin snapped a two-game losing streak with a 3-0 win on a very windy afternoon at Central Hardin High School.
“I could tell a difference from the last nights as far as our mental approach,” said Central Hardin coach Mark Martin. “Even though we didn’t explode for a lot of runs or hits, we attacked the ball a lot more than we did against Green County (a 4-0 loss on Tuesday). Any time you’re giving yourself a chance to score, that’s a good sign.”
Despite the strong wind blowing in her face all game, Krupinski (6-1) managed to keep John Hardin’s hitters off balance with her fastball-changeup combination.
Krupinski struck out five and walked two in seven innings. She threw 68 of her 105 pitches for strikes and induced 10 groundouts against 27 batters.
“She just did a great job of keeping the ball low, especially in the windy conditions,” Martin said. “She didn’t spot her changeup like she wanted to, but she did a good job of staying ahead of the hitters.
“You could just look out there and tell she didn’t get rattled. She stayed focused on what her job was. She gave our defense a chance to help her out, too.”
The Lady Bulldogs (8-13 overall, 1-6 in district) got at least one runner on base in every inning except the second, but Krupinski was always able to work herself out the jams.
“She did a good enough job to where when they did get a hit it was scattered out,” Martin said. “She didn’t make it worse by walking somebody when there was someone on base. She got us into a position to get us out of it.”
With the loss, the Lady Bulldogs are locked into the No. 5 seed for the upcoming 17th District Tournament. Now their only chance is to play spoiler. With a win over homestanding North Hardin on Monday, the Trojans will be out of the running for the No. 1 seed.
The 3, 4 and 5 seeds are set for the five-team, single-elimination tournament at Elizabethtown. Third-seeded Fort Knox (currently 3-4 in district) owns the tiebreaker over fourth-seeded Elizabethtown (2-5), while the Lady Panthers own the tiebreaker over John Hardin.
Two days after striking out 13 in a win over district rival Fort Knox, John Hardin junior Jenna Gachassin (8-11) allowed three earned runs on nine hits and had three strikeouts.
Central Hardin (15-7, 5-0) wasted little time in keeping its place atop the district standings.
Senior catcher Samantha Faulkner led off the bottom of the first with a single and moved to second on a throwing error. Two batters later, senior third baseman Kylie Brady drove in Faulkner with a single to right field.
“Against a pitcher like Jenna, you’re not going to get 12 runs,” Martin said. “But to come out and get a run in the first inning, that puts everybody in the right frame of mind.”
Central Hardin doubled its lead in the bottom of the third. With one out, senior first baseman Cortney Gunning singled and moved to third on a single by senior right fielder Cassandra McCullough.
Gunning then scored on a sacrifice fly by junior left fielder Alanna Stanton.
“It felt really good to get those runs,” Krupinski said. “It makes it a lot easier to pitch.”
Central Hardin took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth as Faulkner – who went 3-for-3 – led off with a single, stole second base, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by senior center fielder Kelly Peters and scored on a ground out by Brady.
John Hardin senior center fielder Morgan Dixon singled twice and stole a base, while senior third baseman Mary Turner and senior catcher Kelsey Bennett each singled.
CENTRAL HARDIN 3, JOHN HARDIN 0
R H E
John Hardin 000 000 0 0 4 3
Central Hardin 110 010 x 3 9 1
Jenna Gachassin and Kelsey Bennett. Kristina Krupinski and Samantha Faulkner. WP: Krupinski (6-1). LP: Gachassin (8-11).
UP NEXT: Central Hardin plays St. Benedict, Tenn., at 8:30 tonight in the Lowe’s Classic at North Laurel. John Hardin plays at 17th District rival North Hardin at 5:30 p.m. Monday.
Josh Claywell can be reached