PREP SOFTBALL: Rally sends North Hardin past Elizabethtown, 5-3 (05/08)

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North Hardin finishes unbeaten in district regular season for third time in four years

By Nathaniel Bryan


  By NATHANIEL BRYAN nbryan@thenewsenterprise.com ELIZABETHTOWN — With the 17th District Tournament pairings already set, Thursday night’s regular-season district finale between 12th-ranked North Hardin and host Elizabethtown didn’t mean much. Try telling that to Shameen Eure. A North Hardin senior center fielder, Eure produced the game’s final three runs on what appeared to be a routine infield slap bunt in the top of the seventh inning before injuring her left knee while diving for a fly ball in the bottom of the seventh as the visiting Trojans rallied from a pair of deficits in a 5-3 win over the Lady Panthers. With North Hardin (23-3-1 overall, 8-0 district) down 3-2 in the seventh inning, sophomore designated hitter Hallie Bird roped a stand-up double to left field and senior catcher Sarah Anderson followed with an infield single to advance senior pinch runner Taylor Bennett to third base. Following a mound meeting, Eure slapped the ball between the pitching circle and first base. But the throw to first was high and rolled all the way to the fence behind the Lady Panthers’ first-base dug-out. Bennett and Anderson scored easily for the tying and go-ahead runs, respectively. After calling timeout, field umpire Ricky Price awarded Eure, who was standing on third, home as well for a three-run infield error. "I was mad when I saw the ball after I hit it. I thought I was out for sure," Eure said while lying on a dugout bench with an ice bag strapped to her knee. Eure, who first injured her knee during a diving catch in a spring break game in Florida, attempted to make a diving catch on senior shortstop Caitlin Adams’ single to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Eure didn’t get up and had to be helped off the field. "I knew I shouldn’t have dove. I wouldn’t have caught it anyway," Eure said. "At least when I hurt it in Florida, I caught it." Eure was replaced by Bennett, but North Hardin junior pitcher Jessie Shartzer took care of the rest, retiring the rest of Elizabethtown’s side in order with a flyout and groundout sandwiched around her 11th strikeout of the game. "We had to dig down deep and pull through because we knew we could still win," said Shartzer (12-1), who gave up six hits, one walk and three earned runs. "It’s all about confidence." Confidence is a characteristic the Lady Panthers (13-8, 4-4) lack, said Elizabethtown coach Kyle Goodlett. What could have been his team’s first victory over a top 25 team this season instead turned into the Trojans’ 14th consecutive victory over Elizabeth-town dating to 2004. Earlier this season, Elizabethtown took host Central Hardin to 10 innings, meaning the Lady Panthers have led (runner-up North Hardin) or been tied with (champion Central Hardin) the 5th Region Tournament’s reigning finalists in the final inning. "For us, it’s about learning to win these big games because before, we hadn’t been in those situations. I told them after the game they could be a great team and contend for this thing, but you have to be confident and you can’t be surprised when you’re in late," Goodlett said. "I really feel like we’re right there. I feel like we’re on the verge of something great." While the game’s final three runs were a bit out of the ordinary, the first two weren’t routine, either. Elizabethtown senior pitcher Kristen Todd hit a two-out single in the bottom of the first and sophomore catcher Hannah Hart followed with a single to left to move seventh-grade courtesy runner Brianna Taylor to second base. Following a double steal, freshman first baseman Sydney Herzog hit a pop fly which died behind the pitcher’s circle between shortstop and second and plated both base runners as North Hardin was unable to make a play on the ball. North Hardin tied the score at 2-all in the third inning. Junior left fielder Brooke Simmons’ two-run single to center came after back-to-back bases-loaded fielder’s choices. Elizabethtown, hitless since the first inning, regained the lead in the sixth as freshman center fielder Mary Beth Russell led off with a single, moved to second on a passed ball, advanced to third on a groundout by senior third baseman Shyann Robertson and scored on a single by Todd down the left-field line. Four North Hardin players – Anderson, Eure, Andi Whelan and senior second baseman Kelsey Whelan – reached base three times, while Shartzer and Bird reached base twice as the Trojans finished their regular-season district slate unscathed for the third time in four seasons. "That was one of the ugliest games since I’ve been here," said North Hardin coach Donnie Baker. "That was crazy." NORTH HARDIN 5, ELIZABETHTOWN 3 R H E North Hardin 002 000 3 5 9 0 Elizabethtown 200 001 0 3 6 4 Jessie Shartzer and Sarah Anderson. Kristen Todd and Hanah Hart. WP: Shartzer (12-1). LP: Todd (11-7). 2B: Hallie Bird (NH). UP NEXT: North Hardin plays at 5th Region rival Nelson County at 6 p.m. Thursday. Elizabethtown plays at Bowling Green at 6 tonight. Nathaniel Bryan can be reached at 505-1758