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What a season comeback.
The Louisiana Lady Bulldogs christened the revamped Firemen’s Field at Louisiana’s Wallace Park last week by capturing their first-ever district softball championship.
The team started the year 0-15 and is now 7-17.
Louisiana will play in a sectional playoff game against Highland at 6 p.m. at Firemen’s Field on Wednesday, Oct. 16.
The public is invited to a pep rally for the team at 2:40 p.m. that same day at the Louisiana high school gym.
The Lady Bulldogs won their sixth game in a row and the district crown in a nail-biter on Friday, Oct. 11.
“The team got out to a big lead and managed to hang on,” said Head Coach Bill Capps. “Kaitlyn VanHooser picked up the win in a gutty performance.”
Senior third baseman Caitlin Bolton set the tone with a blast over the left-center field fence in the first inning with sophomore left fielder Denise Blackwell on base and it was to 2-0.
Freshman second baseman Molly Ross reached on an error in the third inning and scored after a single by Bolton and a double by freshman catcher Samantha Henderson to make it 3-0.
Sophomore designated hitter Bailey Wallace smacked a single and Henderson scored to make it 4-0. Wallace came home on a single to right by sophomore center fielder Taylor Cunningham and it was 5-0.
Junior pitcher VanHooser had four strikeouts by the third inning, but then walked two. An error allowed a run to score and it was 5-1.
In the fourth inning, the Lady Wildcats came back on Louisiana, scoring four times to tie the game 5-5.
Montgomery County started the inning by loading the bases on a walk and two singles.
However, VanHooser and junior shortstop Morgan Murry fired home on two successive ground balls for outs and it looked like the Lady Bulldogs might get out of the inning unscathed.
The Lady Wildcats still had the bases loaded and pushed a run home with a walk and then three more on a dropped fly ball.
VanHooser struggled to throw strikes in the fifth and sixth innings but didn’t allow any hits as the defense stiffened behind her.
In the top of the seventh, VanHooser singled and there were runners on first and second after the pitcher couldn’t handle a grounder from Blackwell.
With the crowd roaring, VanHooser was thrown out trying to steal third on a close call but Blackwell moved to second.
With two out, Bolton stepped to the plate. She doubled hard to left, scoring Blackwell with what would become the winning run.
VanHooser regained her form in the bottom of the seventh inning and got her first out when junior first baseman Ashley Martin stabbed an errant throw and tagged the runner out.
Murry scooped up a ground ball and fired to Martin for the second out.
With the crowd’s hearts pumping, VanHooser got two quick strikes and then fired a third past the hitter to solidify the win.
The Lady Bulldogs celebrated a midfield and the posed with their district championship plaque.
Bolton, VanHooser and Henderson were all named to the all-district team.
VanHooser only gave up two hits on the day and struck out eight while walking seven.
Bolton was three-for-four, scored once and had three RBIs. Henderson was two-for-four, had one RBI and scored once.
Blackwell was two-for-four and scored twice. Wallace had an RBI on her single and scored once. Ross scored once.
The Lady Bulldogs upset the top-seeded Elsberry Lady Indians in the second round of the district tournament on Thursday, Oct. 10.
It was the first victory in four chances this season over the Lady Indians and it didn’t come easy.
“We played a great game defensively with some outstanding plays throughout the game. I was very proud of how the girls came back,” Capps said.
It was scoreless after two innings, but in the third, Bolton scored from first, sliding home to make it 1-0 on a single by Henderson
In the bottom half of the third, VanHooser threw to first base on a bunt attempt and Martin threw home for a double play to keep the game close as the pressure mounted.
With the pitchers on their game, no runs were scored in the fourth and fifth innings.
In the bottom of the sixth inning Elsberry loaded the bases on two walks and a sharp single. The next hitter ticked the ball and it died about 15 feet up the first baseline.
A runner scored and Louisiana allowed it to go to 2-1 on an overthrow.
In the top of the seventh, Martin walked and VanHooser singled.Blackwell grounded to third for a forceout.
That’s when Ross stepped to the plate. With the game on the line, Ross hit a screamer down the left field line, scoring VanHooser and Blackwell.
In the bottom of the seventh, VanHooser fanned the first batter and got another to pop up. The third hitter smacked a long, high fly to center, but Cunningham squeezed it for the win.
Ross was one-for-three with two RBIs. Henderson had an RBI. Vanhooser singled and scored, as did Blackwell and Bolton. Martin had a single.
The Lady Bulldogs won the opening round of the district tourney on Wednesday, Oct. 9 against Lutheran St. Charles.
“We played solid defense behind VanHooser tonight,” Capps said. “The offense continued to roll scoring seven runs on eight hits.”
VanHooser got the complete-game win giving up only five hits, one earned run and six walks while fanning 10.
Ross got and RBI single in the first inning to score Blackwell and tie the game at 1-1.
Wallace made it 3-1 when she doubled to right, scoring Bolton and Ross.
VanHooser struck out the side in the second inning and neither side scored.
In the bottom of the third, Bolton hit the top of the center field fence, missing a home run by a foot. She scored when Henderson tripled to right, making it 4-1.
In the fifth inning, Wallace drove in Blackwell with a single, making it 5-1. Ross scored on an error, increasing the lead to 6-1 and Henderson scored to make it 7-1 when Cunningham singled to right.
Lutheran made it 7-3 with a two-run single in the sixth inning but the Louisiana defense halted the rally.
After a walk and a single, a Lutheran runner strayed off second and was picked off. The runner on third broke for home and Ross gunned her down for a double play.
VanHooser put out the fire with a one-two-three seventh inning.
Henderson was two- for-three with a run and two RBIs. Wallace also had two RBIs on her hit.
Blackwell was two-for-four and scored twice.
Ross didn’t get a hit but knocked in one run and scored twice. Bolton had two hits and scored twice. Cunningham had a hit and an RBI.