Candace Blair had just told her Bradwell Institute teammates, “We got this,” before she took her at-bat in the bottom of the sixth inning and smacked a one-run homer over the center-field fence.
“I really didn’t believe I could do that,” she said after entering the dugout, watching her team defeat visiting Islands High School, 10-2, in six innings on Thursday.
“My truck was parked out there today, and thank God I moved it,” Lady Tigers coach Sharyl Eastlake said after the game, adding that it’s what she’s had her girls working on during the offseason. “I had a feeling either her, Kelissa Hargrove or Barb Rego was going to hit one over the fence. Little bitty Karson Rogers, a couple of weeks ago at a tournament, if we had been in our field, it would have gone over the fence. That was my goal for the year and it is proving true.”
The home team scored first in the bottom of the first inning. Taylor Reese reached first on an unintentional bunt. Her courtesy runner, Jessica Puckett, came in and stole second and third on wild pitches. Sara Wells dropped a hit just behind the second baseman for an RBI.
The BI girls struck again in the bottom of the third inning, when Hargrove was hit by a pitch. Rego hit an RBI double to center field and reached third on an Islands’ error.
Ashley Riles then hit one toward second base and was tossed out at first, but that allowed Rego to score. Shaquira Smith bunted to first and stole second and third on infield errors. Rogers singled to center field, knocking in a run to give BI a 4-0 lead.
Islands finally answered back in the top of the fourth inning. The visiting team singled to get a runner on first. The next batter was tossed out at first. Another Shark singled, placing runners on first and third. The visiting team singled again, driving in two runs to make the score 4-2.
In the bottom of the fourth, Blair hit a single and stole second. Hargrove was tossed out at first, but Blair advanced to third. Rego hit a shot to center field for an RBI double. Ashley Riles followed with another RBI double but made it to third on an outfield error. Smith was thrown out at first, but she brought home Riles to give the home team a 7-2 lead.
“Usually it’s the fourth inning that gets us, so I was happy to see a fourth inning that was productive,” Eastlake said.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Blair was the leadoff batter and smacked one over the fence for a homer.
With a renewed spirit of play, Rego singled and stole second. Riles came up and smashed the ball, sending Rego home. Riles’ speed enabled her to make it to third. She scored seconds later as the BI girls won, 10-2, in six innings.
Eastlake said Islands had improved since last season and attributed it to year-round play.
“I was impressed with their pitcher, and I heard some of their girls are playing for the Sharks (travel team),” she said. “So they are getting some year-round travel ball in. ... It definitely makes them better for the high school season.”
Defensively, the Lady Tigers were on point. Wells made four catches for critical third outs to keep Islands from scoring. Rego dove for a line drive and made a backhanded catch to close an inning. Hargrove snagged a shot toward third for an out. Smith snagged a deep shot to center field, and Courtney Felton played well at first, according to the coach.
“Sara Wells had an awesome day on defense,” Eastlake said. “She has a bruised knee and foot and she just rocked the defense. You can’t beat her on defense.
“Barb, too, throwing herself on the ground to make the stop on the line drive. I just can’t say anything negative.”
The BI girls are tied with Jenkins for second place in Region 3-AAAAA, according to ga.prepcountry.com. BI defeated Jenkins last week for the first time in five years (7-5).
Bradwell is 8-7 overall and 2-1 in the region. The girls will travel to Groves for a 4:30 p.m. game on Tuesday.