By Brennan Stebbins (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
With the leadoff hitter on first base and Jenna Lane coming to the plate, Logan-Rogersville coach Denny McHenry had a decision to make.
Play for one run and try to move pinch runner Maddie Evans to second with a bunt – or let Lane, the junior catcher, swing away.
McHenry opted to let Lane swing it, and she responded by belting a pitch over the left field wall. Her two-run homer in the top of the sixth inning was the difference as Rogersville won 2-0 at McDonald County on Thursday in the Big 8 softball game of the year.
“I rolled the dice and it won,” McHenry said. “Sometimes that’s how it works out.”
With the win, the Wildcats continued to torment the Mustangs. It was Rogersville who handed McDonald County two of its three losses last season, including 8-7 in the Class 3 sectionals.
And it was Lane who hit a go-ahead grand slam in the sixth inning of that playoff contest.
Thursday’s defeat also snapped a 24-game home winning streak for McDonald County in the regular season, dating back to 2017.
Lane’s home run was one of just three hits for the Wildcats in what boiled down to a pitcher’s duel with sophomore Halle Miles throwing for Rogersville and junior Madeline McCall pitching for the Mustangs.
Miles struck out 10 batters and scattered six hits in seven innings, while McCall struck out 15.
“Halle pitched really well,” McHenry said. “Changeup was really, really good. We threw it more tonight than we have all year and she’s been working on it. We haven’t played real well lately and just trying to get kids to grind out at bats. It took one walk and somebody center cutting the ball and you knew if you center cut something here tonight with the way the wind was blowing it was going to travel a ways.”
When freshman Emma Spurlin drew a walk to lead off the top of the sixth, Rogersville had only its fourth baserunner of the game.
“I think that was huge,” McHenry said. “Nobody’s out and we’ve got our leadoff hitter up but I’m just like I don’t know that one run necessarily is going to win it and the way we’ve had trouble putting the ball in play we might as well swing the bat a little bit.”
Lane did just that.
The Mustangs were left lamenting several missed opportunities. They had baserunners in five different innings and several times put runners in scoring position. Junior Mariana Salas reached on a bunt single in the third and advanced to second when freshman Carlee Cooper singled through the left side.
But Miles followed with two strikeouts to get out of the inning.
McDonald County freshman Nevaeh Dodson lined a double to right-center in the fourth inning, and went to third on a bunt by senior Alexa Hopkins, but a pop up ended the threat.
In the fifth, singles by Cooper and freshman Katelynn Townsend put two runners on with two outs. Again, Miles got a strikeout to end the inning.
“I felt like we competed well, just couldn’t come through with a timely hit when we needed it and hat’s off to them, they did,” McDonald County coach Heath Alumbaugh said.
“Miles pitched well and we were able to put pressure on but could never get that next hit that would plate a run when we needed it,” he said.
“We got strikeouts when we needed strikeouts and kids made routine plays, but you know how routine plays go in high school, sometimes they’re the hardest ones to take care of and we made the routine plays,” McHenry said. “They needed to get a big hit with two outs and they didn’t get it. That’s sometimes the way the ball bounces.”
Cooper was the only Mustang to record two hits, and Salas also reached twice with a single and a walk.
Miles and junior Ali Icenhower recorded the other two hits for the Wildcats.
“This time of year you hope you get to playing good because we’re getting down to the stretch time right now,” McHenry said.
Rogersville improved to 18-5; McDonald County dropped to 17-2.