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Lady Raiders clinch return visit to Region

It took a little luck, a lot of great defense and some quick thinking, but the Lady Raiders clinched the top seed in the upcoming 48th District Tournament, plus a return engagement to the 12th Region Tournament with a 3-2 win over Wayne County Friday afternoon.

Coming off a disappointing 8-6 loss to Southwestern two days prior, McCreary needed the win over Wayne to clinch.  A loss would have forced the decision to go to a tie breaker, that might not have gone in the Lady Raiders’ favor.

McCreary only collected five hits in the entire game, but the most important one came in the top of the sixth inning, with the score tied 2-2.

Senior Haley Jones led off the frame with a base hit to right field, putting the potential go-ahead run on first base. Coach Randy Kidd brought in Sophomore Keela Stephens to pinch run, and the move paid dividends.

With the speedster on base Wayne County pitcher Tori Bell threw a wild pitch, allowing Stephens to take second base easily.

On the next pitch Stephens broke for third on a stolen base attempt, and the move caught everyone by surprise. The pick-off throw went wild, sailing into left field and Stephens crossed the plate, giving the Lady Raiders a 3-2 lead.

Pitcher Kaylee Cotton struggled early against the Lady Cardinals, giving up five hits and two walks over the first three innings, but settled down nicely, retiring 14 of the next 15 batters she faced to preserve the win.

The Lady Raiders struck first, setting the tone early.

Cierra Terry drew a walk to start the game and promptly stole second. Cammie Gilreath would reach on an infield error, putting runners on the corners with no outs. Gilreath would steal second unopposed, as the Wayne County defense was concerned with the fleet footed Terry at third.

Cotton drove in the first run with a ground out to the right side, and Jones would make it 2-0 McCreary with a second ground out, plating Gilreath.

Wayne County would tie the game in the bottom of the second inning.

Casi Bell drew a walk to lead off, followed by an Alexa Turner double down the right field line, putting runners on second and third. An uncharacteristic wild pitch from Cotton brought in the first run of the inning and Turner would score on a Deshea New single.

The Lady Raiders got out of the inning without any further damage thanks to a good play on a fly ball in center from Kaylee West and a Cotton strike out, one of nine in the game for the hurler.

Some outstanding defense bailed McCreary out of further trouble in the bottom of the third.

Taylor Bell would lead off with a single to right. Alizabeth Coffey would smack a hard-hit line drive to third, which was snared by Gilreath, and her throw almost caught Bell off base for a double play. Casi Bell would follow with another infield drive. Shortstop Terry ranged far to her right – catching the flare and firing to first, nabbing Bell before she could get back to end the inning.

Cotton was nearly flawless from there on, allowing only one baserunner over the final four innings. That runner was dangerous for McCreary as Kelsey Marcum would reach and advance to third on a Cotton throwing error, but the next batter flew out to Emily Simpson in right field to end the inning.

The win gives McCreary a 3-1 record in the 48th District, giving them the top seed and an automatic bye in the first round of the District Tournament, the second time in the past three years the Lady Raiders have won the regular-season District standings.

It also marks the fourth straight year McCreary has made it to the 12th Region Tournament, but they have yet to survive past the first round.

With a 3-0 win over Clinton County Tuesday the Lady Raiders’ improved their record to 15-7 on the season.

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