David Reeder

Special to the Grove Sun

WESTVILLE- In keeping up with the hot temperatures, the Kansas Lady Comets are off to a torrid start this season as they rolled up another pair of hard-fought wins Thursday afternoon in Westville’s annual fast pitch softball festival.

The Lady Cougars’ starter, Jaci Stopp, got the Kansas side down in order in the top of the first.

And with Kristin Walker on the hill, the Kansas defense yielded the first of five errors to Keys’ leadoff hitter Ashtin Dudley. Dudley ended up on second as a result of the outfield miscue and advanced to third on a Whitney Wright sacrifice bunt. The Cougar centerfielder then scored on a wild pitch for the 1-0 edge, but Walker was able to get out of the inning without further damage.

The Comet offense continued to have no answer for Stopp in the second and the third. Walker pitched around another error in the second, but; in the bottom of the third she was greeted by a Dudley single. Dudley’s drive then rolled past the leftfielder and to the fence, landing the runner on third. Dudley came in to score the second run of the game when Sydni Rainbolt chased her teammate home with a two-out double. That would be the extent of the Lady Cougar offense. Following a scoreless fourth, Shenel Wolfe led off the Kansas fifth with a walk. Summer Higgins put runners on the corners with her one-out base hit. And that’s when Lady Comet Haley Blackwood got hold of a pitch by Stopp that cleared the leftfield fence by 30 feet. Blackwood’s three- run shot gave her team their first lead of the game…and they never looked back.

Hillary Cochran followed with a single and scored on Barbara Helton’s RBI. Helton finished the five-run inning when she scored on Amy Rackliff’s third base hit of the game.

Makayla Duncan picked up a base hit in the fifth inning fray, but went down in a heap as she reached first base. Emergency personnel were summoned to the playing field, where they transported the senior second sacker to the hospital. Subsequent, yet unsubstantiated reports indicated that the incident might have been heat related. On the heels of the five run outbreak, Walker retired the Keys side in order, to seal the 5-2 victory.

Following a short break, the Lady Comets tangled with Stilwell. In the first Lady Indian at bat, Kansas starter Paige Fielden had to pitch around an error in the outfield. Fielden got some defensive help, when Blackwell, from the catcher’s spot, caught the Stilwell runner trying to advance. Both teams went scoreless until the Comet half of the third. Blackwood worked the pitcher for two-out walk, moved to second on a Cochran single and scored the game‘s first run on a Helton RBI rap.

After a scoreless fourth, the Lady Indians got only their second and third hits of the game, which was enough to finally get on the board for a 1-1 deadlock.

Following a scoreless fifth frame and with the time limit reached, the umpire declared the remaining innings would be contested under the tiebreaker rule. The batter who was responsible for the last out of the previous inning was placed on second. The Stilwell runner was unable to advance on a ’seeing eye’ single.

And this time the Lady Comet defense stepped up. With runners at first and second the infield snagged liner for the first out and alertly nipped the runner on second, who had wandered a little too far off base. Fielden did the rest and got out of the inning.

With momentum clearly in their corner, the top of the Kansas order wasted no time in pushing the winning run across from second base. With their 2-1 victory, the Lady Comets remain undefeated on the young season.

However on Friday the Lady Comets ran into 5A power Tahlequah, and were handed their first loss of the season.

After taking an early 2-0 lead, Kansas gave up seven unanswered runs in the 8-3 loss.

The Lady Comets are now 4-1 on the season.