By Pat Dailey (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
HOLLISTER — Having shed her previous title as a flex player, Hollister’s Rachael Sutton showed Tuesday in the Lady Tigers’ 12-7 triumph over Crane why she’s swinging the bat as a sophomore.
Sutton was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI.
As a freshman a year ago, she started in the outfield, but did not hit.
“Last year, my hitting wasn’t there, but my fielding was,” Sutton said. “That really made me work hard on my batting. It felt weird to play the field and not bat. I felt unaccomplished. My goal was to get on the varsity last year. But I felt like I was only half on varsity.”
“She probably worked the hardest of anyone on our team on hitting in the off-season,” coach Willy Morgan added. “Man, I’m so proud of her. It’s not luck that she’s doing this.”
Sutton twice beat out bunts for base hits against Crane.
“She’s really good with the short game and is probably our best bunter,” Morgan said. “She can lure them in with a bunt and then look to slap or slash the ball by them. She’s working some wizardry with her bat.”
Sutton had one of Hollister’s six hits in its seven-run second inning. Center fielder Mackie Green delivered a two-run triple, after striking out in her first at-bat against Crane veteran pitcher Olivia Edwards.
“My first at-bat, I was trying to get my timing down,” Green said. “After I struck out, I didn’t want to get frustrated. I thought to myself, ‘I’m going up there and hit the first pitch because I don’t want to hit late in the count.’ Every hit I had it was either the first pitch or the first strike that I hit.”
“She had a game a couple games ago in which she was taking strikes, getting behind in the count and then having to hit junk,” Morgan said. “I felt like tonight she was seeing the ball well after her first at-bat and had some great at-bats. I expect that from her. She’s one of our best hitters.”
Green, a junior, added an RBI-double in the Lady Tigers’ four-run sixth.
Green and her older sister, Riah, both hit .300-plus for Hollister a year ago. This was due to be Riah’s senior season, but instead she home-schooled and graduated early on-line.
“I miss having her out here,” Mackie said. “Last year was fun. We got into a couple arguments, but worked well together.”
Hollister (5-5) knocked Crane (5-1) from the ranks of the unbeaten while receiving contributions up and down its lineup. Designated hitter Becca Clarida, batting ninth, belted an RBI-triple. Right fielder Drew Henderson, batting eighth, ripped a two-run single. Catcher Macy Wright and first baseman K.K. Thomas both had an RBI-single.
“We wanted to get the ball in (on Hollister’s hitters). But we didn’t and they were able to get extension on their bats and put some hits together,” Crane coach Mike Morelock said. “For whatever reason, we weren’t able to get (the pitches) in.”
Morgan was proud to see the Lady Tigers answer a Crane comeback by extending their lead from 8-7 to 12-7 with four runs in the sixth.
“We went to sleep, but I like how we came back our third time around the order and were hungry again,” Morgan said. “We were talking about getting an insurance run and we were hungry and got four.”
After being down 7-2, Crane pulled to within one run, 7-6, on a home run by third baseman Maggie Vaught.
Kalee Bekememier was the winning pitcher, with relief help from Thomas.
Tuesday’s contest is slated to the first of five games this week for Crane, which has endured more than its share of postponements. The Lady Pirates will defend their SWCL Tournament title from a year ago this weekend.
“We start Districts next week and here we are only 5-1,” Morelock said. “You’re used to rainouts in the spring, but this spring has been unusual.”
Hollister is hoping to ride momentum into the post-season. The Lady Tigers will have to get past defending state champion Strafford in Class 1 District 8.
“It might be a little bit of David and Goliath. But I think it’s going to be fun,” Morgan said. “I’m excited about what we can do at Districts. I like our team.”
Hollister 12, Crane 7
Crane 020 221 0 — 7
Hollister 071 004 x — 12
WP – Bekemeier. LP – Edwards. HR — Vaught.