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Freshman Taylor Thomas believes playing with a lead helps her and her Elizabethtown teammates relax, both at the plate and in the field.
That much was evident at 17th District rival North Hardin on Thursday, when the Lady Panthers jumped out to a six-run lead in the top of the first and never looked back in a 12-2 win over the Trojans in five innings.
“We’ve been working hard on trying to get leads on teams earlier,” Thomas said. “To get a six-run lead on them was good. We were just focused and on our ‘A’ game.”
The Lady Panthers (10-8, 4-2 district) seized control in the first, sending 11 batters to the plate against three pitchers.
Freshman Nicole Blackstone and sophomore Brooke Chancey had two-run doubles and freshman Sarah Beth Hundley hit a two-run single as the Lady Panthers (10-8, 4-2 district) scored all six runs with two outs.
“It was good knowing we can get a lead like that on people,” said Hundley, who added a two-run double in the fifth. “We know we can we play really well when we’ve got a lead like that.”
Even when North Hardin junior Bailey Blair hit a two-run homer in the first, the Lady Panthers’ confidence never wavered.
Even after stranding a runner in the second and third innings, Elizabethtown wasn’t rattled. The Lady Panthers simply started hitting again.
Thomas’ line-drive, two-run homer to left-center field in the fourth made it 8-2.
“I knew it was gone,” Thomas said of her third homer of the year. “That pitch looked so perfect and I just put the bat to it and it went over. When you hit a home run, you get this feeling when it comes off the bat. As soon as I hit it, I just had that feeling.”
The Lady Panthers batted around again in the fifth, scoring four more runs with two outs. Freshman Callie Sondergard doubled to drive in Patterson and Hundley followed with a two-run double to chase freshman Brooke Mahanna for the second time.
After back-to-back walks, Hundley scored on Chancey’s single for a 12-2 lead.
“They came out pretty relaxed,” Elizabethtown coach Matt Mardis said. “They weren’t tight, but I’m pretty sure the six-run lead gave them a little bit of confidence. They came in after the bottom of the first and we told them four wasn’t enough, that they had to build on that, and they responded well.”
Elizabethtown, 8-2 in its last 10 games, can lock up the No. 2 seed for the district tournament with one win in its final two district games. The loss knocked the Trojans (5-17, 2-4) out of contention for a top-two seed, but they are still in line for the No. 3 seed.
Of the Lady Panthers’ 12 hits, five were doubles. Hundley went 2-for-4, while Thomas finished 2-for-3 and scored three runs.
“We’ve played from behind before and it was hard to get out of the hole,” Thomas said. “But now, if we can get a lead like we did tonight, that will help make things easier on us. We just got our heads in the game and we came focused and ready to win. We were all just laid back and trying to have fun, and that really helped us.”
Mardis credited the bottom three hitters – seventh-grader Madyson Pinkham, Chancey and Blackstone – for getting the lineup turned back over.
“When the bottom can help turn our lineup over and get us back to the top, good things are going to happen,” he said. “The games where we’ve scored a bunch of runs have been where the bottom has been able to contribute too, just to push us back to the top. It helps us feel pretty confident when we can get to the top with runners on.”
The Trojans, meanwhile, lost for the fourth time in six games.
North Hardin coach Donnie Baker said his team goes as its pitchers go.
“If they keep throwing it down the middle and they keep hitting hard and we keep making errors, it’s going to be a long inning like the first was tonight,” he said.
ELIZABETHTOWN 12, NORTH HARDIN 2
R H E
Elizabethtown 600 24 1212 0
North Hardin 200 00 2 5 3
Brooke Mahanna, Makayla Daniels (1), Taylor Walters (1), Mahanna (4), Daniels (5) and Bailey Blair. Nicole Blackstone, Morgan White (4) and Brooke Chancey. WP: Blackstone. LP: Mahanna. 2B: Chancey (E), Blackstone (E), Carly Patterson (E), Callie Sondergard (E), Sarah Beth Hundley (E). HR: Taylor Thomas (E), Blair (NH).
UP NEXT: Elizabethtown hosts Marion County at 6 p.m. today. North Hardin plays at Louisville Holy Cross at 6 p.m. Monday.
Josh Claywell can be reached at 270-505-1752 or email@example.com.