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PREP SOFTBALL: Lady Waves hammer Lady Bulldogs (04/28)

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By Ryan O'Gara

A natural tendency for teams in any sport is to play down to the level of their competition.

Meade County refuses to subscribe to that theory this season. Playing at a high level no matter the opponent isn’t easy, but the 23rd-ranked Lady Waves are careful to avoid letdowns.

“Teams we’ve had in the past haven’t done that,” said Meade County coach Mike Harreld. “I’ve been proud of them because this whole year, they’ve done that and played well.”

The Lady Waves made sure that continued Friday as they scored in every inning – including a 10-run fifth inning – on their way to a 20-2 mercy-rule victory at John Hardin.

“It is important because no matter who you play, you don’t want to let up and play to how they play,” said Meade County freshman Rachel Ayer, who went 4-for-4 with a home run. “You want to play to the best that you can play.”

The 20 runs were the most allowed by John Hardin (5-8) in the 12-year history of the program. The Lady Waves (15-7) pounded out 18 hits and took advantage of four errors.

They also put pressure on John Hardin’s defense by being aggressive on the base paths and force the Lady Bulldogs to make plays.

Sophomore Elissa Youart (4-for-4) doubled with one out in the first inning and after she stole third and junior Ashley Nikolao walked, Meade County got creative.

Instead of just taking her base, Nikolao took off for second and created a diversion for Youart to score.

“We do a lot of things on the bases, so we try to take every opportunity we can to run the bases and steal bases and do some things offensively,” Harreld said. “We have several offensive plays we run. It forces the defense to step up and make the play and they weren’t making the attempt to throw us out. You just take what they give you.”

Youart’s second double made it 3-0 and she scored on Nikolao’s line-drive triple to deep right. Nikolao scored on a wild pitch for a 5-0 lead.

The edge allowed junior Sarah Greer to get comfortable in her first start since going on a mission trip over spring break.

Greer walked her first two hitters in the first inning but settled down and gave up just two hits the rest of the way. She allowed two unearned runs.

“We knew she was going to be rusty,” Harreld said. “There’s a little more pressure in a varsity game. She had to settle her nerves down. I told her to throw the ball down the middle until you get your groove and we’ll start working pitches.”

In the third inning, John Hardin junior Kaitlyn Embry drove in freshman Melodi Haught on a groundout and senior Katlyn Geer hit an RBI single up the middle to score senior Lexi Wood and cut the lead to 6-2, but Meade County responded with four more runs in the fourth, capped by Ayer’s fourth home run in her last seven games.

“I’m looking for base hits and to get the runner in,” Ayer said. “If you think home run, you’re going to get out.”

After a strikeout to lead off the fifth, 11 straight Meade County hitters reached base to invoke the mercy rule.

“Meade County is a good team and you can only contain them for so long,” said John Hardin coach Deron Bell. “We were right there after that third inning. A couple hits here, a couple errors there and the wheels fell off.”

Nikolao and freshman Abby Whelan also had multiple hit games for the Lady Waves, while Haught went 2-for-2.

“It’s a tough loss, but tomorrow is another day,” Bell said. “And that’s what you have to keep telling the girls. Just get ready for tomorrow. Especially with a young team like we have, you can’t do anything but encourage them.”

MEADE COUNTY 20, JOHN HARDIN 2

                                              R     H   E

Meade County    231   4(10)  20   18  2

John Hardin       101     00      2    3  4

Sarah Greer, Neeli Rhoads (5) and Maddie Tabor. Katlyn Geer and Melodi Haught. WP: Greer. LP: Geer. 2B: Elissa Youart (MC) 2, Ashley Nikolao (MC), Rachel Ayer (MC), Abby Whelan (MC). 3B: Nikolao (MC). HR: Ayer (MC).

UP NEXT: Meade County plays at Louisville DuPont Manual at 5:30 p.m. Monday. John Hardin hosts No. 24 Central Hardin at 5:30 p.m. Monday.

Ryan O’Gara can be reached at (270) 505-1754 or rogara@thenewsenterprise.com.