The Guthrie LadyJays hosted the Piedmont Lady Wildcats Tuesday in a highly contested rematch of last year’s first round match up in the state tournament. Unlike the LadyJays, who lost four key players from last season, Piedmont brought back 14 seniors. The Lady Wildcats experience and senior leadership helped carry them to an early, but important district victory Tuesday, beating Guthrie 9-5.
Piedmont started fast, scoring their first three batters of the first inning to take a 3-0 lead. In the top of the second, Piedmont staged a two-run, three-out rally to push the lead to five runs.
In the home half of the second, Elaina Clark, Ashlee Eichler, and Bayleigh Rolens loaded the bases for the LadyJays with only one out away. Guthrie would not be able to find the hit they needed, as Piedmont retired the next two batters, leaving all three runners stranded. The LadyJays would finish leaving 10 runners on base.
After another Piedmont run in the top of the third, the LadyJays were finally able to break the seal on the scoreboard. A Trinity LeGrande single to left, followed by an Addy Awbrey walk, put two runners aboard for Drew Dodgion. Dodgion picked up her lone RBI of the game, driving in LeGrande with a single to left. After a Clark sacrifice bunt put Awbrey and Dodgion in scoring position, Eadie Jobe drove in the first of her two RBIs on the night, scoring LeGrande on a ground ball to left. The LadyJays would leave two runners on base in the inning, as Guthrie would go down in order to end the inning.
Trailing 7-2 in the bottom of the fifth, Clark hit Guthrie’s first home run of the season with a solo shot to left field, bringing the LadyJays within four, 7-3.
The Lady Wildcats added two more insurance runs in the top of the sixth to take a commanding 9-3 lead with six outs remaining.
In the bottom of the seventh inning, Guthrie loaded the bases for Jobe. Facing a full count, Jobe was able to plate a runner after being hit by a pitch, bringing the LadyJays within five, 9-4. After a double play, Rolens drove in Dodgion on an RBI single to center. Guthrie’s comeback would fall short, leaving runners on the corners.
Guthrie Head Coach Booker Blakley says he’s proud of the way his team battled throughout, but says they have to do a better job of scoring when they have runners on base.
“That’s what happens when you play a quality team like Piedmont,” Blakley said. “You have to take advantage of the opportunities you get, which we did at some points, but not enough at the right times.”
With the loss, the LadyJays fall to 0-2 on the year after losing 9-7 in the season opener against the Oklahoma City Lady Broncos. It’s not the start Blakley wanted for his team fresh off a state tournament run last year, but says that despite the two losses, he’s still encouraged with what he’s seen so far.
“The biggest thing for me is the girls have responded to up and down moments,” Blakley said. “Unfortunately we’ve fallen behind early in both games, but we made adjustments and battle back and tried to find a way to win. We didn’t quite get there but just to see that has been pretty impressive. I think the girls are starting to get a little more confident in themselves. They understand what they lost from last year’s team but after playing the game with Piedmont, they understand that we’re still right there and capable of being a good team.”
Outside of missed opportunities on offense, the LadyJay defense is something Blakley is hoping will solidify over the course of the season. Guthrie has allowed nine runs in back-to-back games to open the season. Last season, Guthrie gave up nine runs only three times.
“I think we have to pick up the slack inside the circle,” Blakley said. “We’re falling behind too often in the count, putting ourselves in a hitters count, which is good when we’re on offense, but not so much when we are on the field. That’s allowed some people to sit back and kind of tee off on us. We’ve got to make sure we limit the runs a little bit, too. We can’t go through the season giving up nine runs a game. We’ve got to make sure we can attack batters when they’re hitting and we haven’t been able to do that yet.”
The LadyJays will have to bounce back quick, as they travel to Woodward next week for another very important district game. Other than Piedmont, Woodward and Guthrie are two teams poised to be one of the top-three in the district standings at the end of the year. With a regional host spot as the prize, finishing in the top two is vital to a teams playoff run.
“We’ve got to get ready for Woodward on Tuesday,” Blakley said. “Piedmont and Woodward, along with us, are probably the top of the district. It’s going to be a very important game for us to go up there and win.”