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On two separate occasions in the early innings, John Hardin softball coach Deron Bell had to tell his players to take off their jewelry.
But the first-year coach’s complaints ended there.
Six days after the seniors organized a players’ only meeting, the host Lady Bulldogs put together their most complete performance of the season, scrapping their way to four early runs and riding the arm of senior Katlyn Geer to an 8-0 17th District victory over the Elizabethtown Lady Panthers.
“This was the best performance that we’ve had all year,” Geer said after her complete game in which she scattered five hits and walked none. “And I’m glad it was our best performance.”
Bell wasn’t in the mood to disagree.
“We played as a complete team today,” Bell said. “Our pitcher hit spots, the defense played great behind her and we got timely hits.”
On the heels of a 10-0 loss last week to North Hardin, Geer and fellow seniors Brooke Barrow, Lexi Wood and Brooke Reed spoke to the rest of the team about playing with more urgency.
Consider that message received.
In its first game since that meeting, John Hardin (4-5, 1-1 district) came out as the aggressor as Geer provided all the offense she would need with a two-out double to plate Wood in the first inning.
Geer got into a jam in the second thanks to one-out singles from freshmen Carly Patterson (2-for-3) and Brooke Chancey, but it led to a recurring theme from the Lady Bulldogs: exceptional defense.
Second baseman Ally Furnish made an over-the-shoulder catch to save two runs, and center fielder Nawdya Fletcher added a spectacular diving catch to save two runs in the fifth inning. Reed ended the game by chasing down a well-hit ball in left-center from Brianna Taylor.
“Those defensive plays are what get me going,” Geer said. “When they make those outs, that drives me to push even harder.”
Starting pitcher Callie Sondergard got two quick outs to open the second for Elizabethtown (5-9, 0-1), but Fletcher worked a walk and Barrow reached on a bunt single.
Wood followed it up with an RBI single, and at the end of the play as Sondergard was walking back to the circle, Barrow alertly swiped home with no one covering for a 3-0 lead.
“We weren’t in it,” said Elizabethtown coach Matt Mardis. “We weren’t engaged. They gave the effort and they won it. When one team shows up ready to play and the other doesn’t, that’s what happens.”
Geer, who struck out three, allowed just two hits after the second inning.
With two out and two on in the fifth, the Lady Panthers’ Allison Sherrard sent a soft liner up the middle that seemed sure to score two runs and cut the Lady Bulldogs’ lead in half.
But Fletcher, who dropped a fly ball earlier in the inning, came out of nowhere to make an acrobatic catch.
“In the past, her head would get down if she missed a ball,” Bell said. “But she came right back and made that beautiful play to end the inning.
“And it carried over into the dugout,” Bell added. “You could see it in their eyes. They wanted it bad.”
John Hardin added onto the lead in the sixth when Wood (3-for-4) drove in Barrow. Embry (2-for-4) scored Wood with a line drive to right before Geer (2-for-4 with three RBIs) hit a screaming two-run double to right to cap the scoring.
“It’s been a few years since we beat them,” Bell said. “And in my first year taking over the team, it’s a great feeling.”
John Hardin 8, Elizabethtown 0
R H E
Elizabethtown 000 000 0 0 5 5
John Hardin 130 004 x 8 9 3
Callie Sondergard and Brooke Chancey. Katlyn Geer and Melodi Haught. WP: Geer. LP: Sondergard. 2B: Geer (JH) 2.
UP NEXT: John Hardin plays at Central Hardin at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Elizabethtown plays at North Hardin at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Ryan O’Gara can be reached at (270) 505-1754 or firstname.lastname@example.org.