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CARROLLTON – Hannah Searcy's no-doubter erased all doubts about the Anderson County Lady Bearcats on Monday afternoon.
Searcy's grand slam in the bottom of the third powered the Lady Bearcats to a 10-2 win over South Oldham in the opening round of the Eighth Region softball tournament at Carroll County High School.
Anderson, the team that, on paper would have to be considered a slight regional favorite, moves on to play Grant County in the regional semifinals tonight, Wedndesday, June 2 at Carroll County.
Searcy, a freshman, blasted a 3-2 pitch from South Oldham left-hander Danielle Hempel, an eighth-grader, to score overcome an early 1-0 deficit. After Searcy had fouled off at least four full count pitches, she drove Hempel's offering well over the fence in left-center field.
“I knew it was gone as soon as the ball left the bat,” said Anderson's Courtney Turpin, who was on second base after reaching on a single.
Searcy knew it too. She also knew she needed to come up big or leave the lineup as coach Brian Glass had already used a pinch-runner for her in the first inning. “I knew that he would put a runner on and I would have to come out,” Searcy smiled.
The huge smile she sported rounding the bases and the celebration at home plate that followed indicated that the Lady Bearcats knew things had suddenly turned their way after some tense early moments.
Anderson ended up sending 10 batters to the plate in the decisive third and scored two more runs, one coming when Renay Peacock drove in K.K. Fitzpatrick and the other on Mackenzie Peavler's sacrifice fly that scored Karrah Bottoms.
“We struggled a little bit early and made some mental errors,” Bottoms noted.
“We didn't adjust early,” Turpin added, noting that Hempel did not have the velocity that many of the pitchers Anderson had seen. The Lady Bearcats appeared to lunge early and had pop-ups for four of their first seven outs.
While Anderson had seen only one lefty all year, and lost that game, the Lady Bearcats said they did not consider that a factor. “It made no difference,” Searcy said.
Anderson plated two more runs in the fourth when Turpin belted another offering from Hempel inside the left-field foul pole with Corrin Robinson on. The Lady Bearcats added single unearned runs in both the fifth and sixth innings.
“I was glad to see (Searcy's slam),” Glass said. “I thought it was out when she hit it.”
Robinson started the third inning uprising when she reached on a bunt with one out. Turpin singled and Lauren Brown reached on an error to load things up for Searcy.
Robinson reached base all three times up and got the uprisings in the third and fourth started.
Meanwhile, Turpin struggled early, giving up a walk and two hits in the first four batters before settling down in a dominating performance worthy of a Miss Softball candidate. She struck out 14 and scattered seven hits. Both of South Oldham's runs were unearned.
“She was really hitting her spots,” said catcher Renay Peacock. “It took a few batters to adjust to the umpire but after she did, her zone was (on target).”
Turpin said she relied mainly on her curve ball as South Oldham continued to chase that pitch.
Anderson did escape some trouble in both the sixth and seventh innings, when South Oldham loaded the bases both innings, aided by a couple of Anderson errors, but the Dragons only scored on Turpin's wild pitch with the bases loaded in the seventh.
By then, things had long been settled.
Anderson has every intention of living up to its billing and did not take South Oldham lightly, despite the Dragons' 9-20 record coming in. “We have to show up to play,” senior outfielder Karrah Bottoms warned.
It was a message Glass had preached as well. “We took care of business,” he said. “We got some of the nerves out and made some mistakes but we were able to win.”
Lady Cats to play Grant.
Anderson will play 32nd district runnerup Grant County, which upset 31st District champion Henry County, 11-5 in the tournament opener.
“I don't know much about Grant County,” Glass said.
Grant has the second most wins in the region with a 24-12 record. The teams have several common opponents. Anderson is 5-3 in games against common opponents, Grant is 3-5. Grant's most impressive win was a 4-3 win over 10th Region favorite George Rogers Clark.
E-mail John Herndon at firstname.lastname@example.org.