Wildcats hold off scrappy Colonels for rivalry win

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Colman Roberts said in the nearly two decades he's been coaching softball at Woodland that there's never been a lopsided game between the Wildcats and their county rival Cass.

Thursday's game didn't change that.

Every time Woodland tried to pull away, Cass came right back. Eventually, though, the Wildcats escaped just enough jams to hold on for an 8-6 home win in Region 7-AAAAA.

"I'm glad we won," Roberts said. "I'm proud of them. That's a tough one. Every game since I've coached here, 19 years, there's never been a blowout in this game right here. It's always to the last pitch."

It was the case again Thursday with the final toss by Woodland pitcher Madi Bentley landing a called third strike with the tying run at home plate.

The Colonels (1-3, 1-3) entered the top of the seventh trailing 8-4, but Cass mounted another rally in its final at bat.

Hailie Owens, who finished 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored, reached on a free pass to open the frame. Kelly Young followed with her third hit of the game to put two on with nobody out.

A fielder's choice groundout moved the runners up 60 feet before Macenzie Doughatry, who was 3-for-5, capped her stellar night with a single to left to drive home her third run.

Bentley wiggled out of one final tough spot with back-to-back strikeouts, although another Young did score on a wild pitch during the game's final at bat.

"They've got a lot of heart; they don't give up," Cass coach Greg Hight said of his players. "You saw that here tonight. ... We played one senior tonight. The rest of these kids are freshmen and sophomores. We've got a couple of juniors in the dugout. They played with a lot of heart and emotion. They want to win, and they're going to win."

From Roberts' perspective, he sees the same thing.

"We talked about it, they're scrappy," he said of the Colonels. "They're well coached, they're young and they're good. They're going to be real good later."

While the future appears quite bright for Cass, the present will involve some growing pains. Thursday showcased that with some defensive miscues costing the Colonels dearly.

In the first inning, two throwing errors on a ball off Morgan Bailey's bat turned into a little league home run. It wiped out Eryn Lee's manufactured run in the top half of the frame when she singled, stole second and third, and then scored on a groundout.

Woodland's lead grew from 2-1 to 4-1 in the third when a two-out grounder went through the legs of the Cass second baseman. Another error in the sixth inning allowed the Wildcats (3-4, 2-2) to tack on what turned out to be a key insurance run.

The Colonels' inexperience crept up a few times in decisive offensive moments, too. Although it could be said, Cass had some terrible luck with the bases loaded.

Maggie Collum, who was 2-for-4 with an RBI, looked to have another hard-hit, run-scoring single in the third, but Caroline Higdon made a great throw from right field to get her at first.

The next inning, the Colonels filled the bags again. This time a strikeout and groundout allowed Bentley to dance out of trouble. Then in the fifth, Cass grounded out yet again with the bases loaded.

"We made a few mistakes there, errors at some crucial points," Hight said. "I think what we had count of, we gave up three earned runs and they gave up six earned runs. If you take that and get the big hit when the bases are loaded — I mean, I think it was twice we had them loaded with one out or less — we just didn't get the big hit at the right time. We had the right people at the place, but it just didn't work out that way."

Despite all the times Bentley tempted fate, Roberts said he had no intention of pulling her. Even having given up 13 hits and five walks, he left in Bentley, who closed strong with her eighth and ninth strikeouts coming to the final two hitters.

It's clear Roberts has been gearing Bentley and his other top pitcher Sarah Baynard, who did warm up during the fourth inning, into being able to work through struggles and pitch complete games.

"I thought she did good," Roberts said. "She's going to have to finish. They're going to have to finish games, so I was leaving her. I was never pulling her."

While Woodland did a good job taking advantage of Cass' mistakes, the Wildcats also put together a few rallies without outside help.

In the second inning, Kendyl Hardin hit a double, the only Woodland extra-base hit of the game, Skylar Chappell singled and Bella Carnes singled home Hardin. After Dougharty's two-run single pulled Cass within 4-3, Jordan Duck singled home two of her own, driving in Morgan Bailey and Ansley Evans, who each singled earlier in the frame.

Following Duck's clutch hit, Higdon lined a ball up the middle that unfortunately caught Cass starting pitcher Rachael Lee flush in the ankle/lower leg area.

Lee, a freshman who had pitched well so far this season, left the field in tears without being able to put any weight on her right leg. Before the game was finished, she had been carried and loaded into a truck en route to the hospital.

"She was still hurting pretty bad," Hight said, "so I think they're just going to take her to the hospital and have her checked out to make sure nothing is broke or displaced."

If Rachael Lee is able to return soon, the Colonels have a chance to really make some noise in the region. Their 1-3 record doesn't accurately depict how competitive they've been this season.

As for the Wildcats, who made the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs in 2017, things have started to turn around after two tough losses to begin region play.

While Woodland still hasn't found ways to put teams away, Roberts has gotten contributions from top to bottom in his lineup, especially Thursday.

Carnes and Duck led the way with each finishing 2-for-4 with two RBI. Evans went 3-for-4 with two runs scored; Hardin was 2-for-4 with a run; and Chappell wound up 1-for-2 with a walk and a run scored.

It was around this time last year that the Wildcats started to turn a corner. Maybe, it's going to happen again.

"We've just got to put it all together," Roberts said. "Little things hurt us, things we've been working on. ... Hopefully, we'll start playing well."