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SHELBYVILLE - What some call the beauty of the baseball-softball diamond turned into an ugly nightmare for Anderson County's Lady Bearcats last Tuesday.
There is no clock in the games, just record three outs and the inning is over.
But that simple concept was almost foreign to the Lady Bearcats in a district seeding game at Shelby County. The hosts took advantage of 4 Anderson errors and countless other mental lapses to score a 10-9 victory. It was Shelby's second win over Anderson in three tries this year and the Lady Rockets wrapped up the top seed in the 30th District Tournament with the victory.
It was a contest that 13th-ranked Anderson gave away or no. 20 Shelby won by cashing in on its opportunities, depending on one's perspective. Of Shelby's 10 runs, 9 came after Anderson would have been out of the inning if not for errors committed on routine plays.
"Shelby has a good team," said Anderson coach Brian Glass, "but you cannot make mental errors like we did. If you commit error after error after error, good teams are going to take advantage. Shelby did that to us."
The Bearcats muffed a pair of routine ground balls, missed a throw from the outfield and had an easy pop-up fall harmlessly to the ground when there was a communication problem between the outfield and infield. Anderson also failed to cover first on a grounder to first base. Offensively, a base runner froze between second and third in a force situation, turning what should have been a tough play into an easy 5-6 force out.
"I wish I knew what happened," Glass said. "We had some players playing their hearts out but some weren't. Two or three didn't come to play."
Glass has said all season long that Anderson not only has the potential to make the state tournament for the first time in 6 years, but to do some major damage once there. Little from last Tuesday's game would back that up, however. "In order for us to be a top team in the state, we all have to show up.," Glass said.
Shelby, on the other hand, appeared to be a team on a mission. After Anderson reached Shelby pitcher Hannah Stucker for 3 runs in the top of the third, the Lady Rockets responded to plate 6 of their own in the bottom of the inning.
Shelby's top pitcher, Haleigh LeCompte, is recovering from a broken wrist.
Anderson's Courtney Turpin had tripled home two runs, then courtesy runner Christina Harvey scored on Emily Ethington's sacrifice fly. But with one out in Shelby's turn, Anderson bobbled easy ground balls on successive plays. Shelby's Jessica Williams, who would go 3-for-4 with an inside-the-park home run and 4 rbi, then singled home two runs.
Ten Rockets came to the plate with Shauna Gramig tripling home 2 more scores and what seemed to be a big Anderson lead had become a large deficit.
"We were able to capitalize on their mistakes," said Shelby coach Kelly Cable.
While Anderson was trying to establish 30th District, and possibly Eighth Region supremacy early, Shelby was able to respond quickly to Anderson's early lead. Cable said there was no big speech on the Shelby bench after Anderson's first uprising. "I have not had to do much motivating with this group this year," she said.
Anderson chipped away to tie things at 7-all in the top of the sixth when Makenzie Stoner doubled home K.K. Fitzpatrick, a courtesy runner for Tiffany Davenport. Stoner then came home on Caitlyn Royalty's single.
But Shelby responded in the bottom of the inning when Stucker tripled home a run then scored on William's inside-the-park job to right center.
Anderson rallied one more time with Lauren Brown driving in a run with a double to right, then scoring on Davenport's single but it was too little, too late.
The morning after the game, Glass contacted The Anderson News by e-mail, saying, "There were a lot of mental lapses during last night's game. I think because we have good leadership I thought that I wouldn't have to be as tough on these kids in practice.
"However, the mental toughness is obviously not there yet. After talking with many players on the team they want to go the extra mile and practice harder. We have 4 seniors who I have coached for 6 years and they are not going to accept the way we played last night. Last night was the first game the coaching staff and I had to give the girls some 'tough love' and truth.
"However, I know with the kind of kids we have on this team that they will respond and do whatever it takes to play to the level we know they can. I also told many kids to look around at how many college-level softball players we have on this team. I told them that this is our year to win the region.."
Anderson will get another crack at Shelby at home on Monday, May 5 in a game that will not count in the district standings and will almost assuredly see the Lady Rockets in the district championship game.
"Oh, we know we will see them again," Cable said. "Anderson is an outstanding team."
At least Glass hopes the Lady Bearcats will be by that time. "I know this, we aren't going to tolerate the way we played tonight."