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Lady Indians rally for win over Rangerettes

  • Benton pitcher Kiley Carter throws to a Du Quoin batter in Monday's season opener at Du Quoin High School.

    Benton pitcher Kiley Carter throws to a Du Quoin batter in Monday's season opener at Du Quoin High School.
    DOUG DANIELS | For the Benton News

BY Justin Walker
Contributing Writer
updated: 3/13/2019 12:33 PM

Every time Du Quoin and Benton meet on the softball diamond, you can pretty much expect a great game. The 2019 season opener for both teams Monday fit the bill again.

Du Quoin jumped out to an early lead only to see Benton score four runs to pull ahead before the host Lady Indians rallied to tie it in the sixth and won it, 5-4, on Katie Smith's rope up the middle in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Olivia Whitley led off the winning frame by ripping a full-count pitch from reliever Addisyn Miller to left field. After freshman Lauren Heape also worked a full count but struck out, Whitley's pinch-runner, Maya Russell, alertly took second base on a pitch in the dirt with Smith at the plate.

Then with a 2-2 count, the left-handed swinging Smith sent a rocket into center field to easily score Russell with the winning run. Smith, a returning standout and one of seven seniors on the Lady Indians' roster, was 0-for-3 until providing the walk off hit.

"We were able to get Katie back up in that situation and she was due," said Du Quoin coach Jason James. "She stepped up and got the base hit. That was big on her part."

Smith, a shortstop, also provided the defensive gem of the game with a fully-extended diving stop and throw from her knees to rob Ragan Carter of a hit in the sixth inning.

Du Quoin's early lead came when Whitley, another one of the seven seniors, drove in two runs with a two-out single in the second inning off Benton starter Kiley Carter. The hit came after battery mates Chloe Hill (double) and Maci McKinnies (walk) both reached base.

Benton didn't have a hit the first time through the order against Du Quoin's senior hurler, Hill, and didn't get on the board until the fourth when outfielder Morgan Reno ripped a two-out single to score Kiley Carter's courtesy runner, Cailyn Fowlkes, after Carter drew a leadoff walk.

In the fifth, Benton pushed in front with a two-out rally started when Courtney Reno was hit by a pitch and Miller doubled. Kiley Carter followed with a two-run single and Zoe Carlton doubled off the wall to make it 4-2.

"We're down 2-0 and not having real good at-bats and the girls made an adjustment and then we hit three balls off the fence," said Benton coach Ryan Miller. "We scored three runs and got the lead and then -- well, that's just the way it goes sometimes."

In the sixth, after Smith's web gem and another nice catch in right field by Abbi Mocaby in the top half, the Lady Indians quickly rallied to tie it. Morgan Bullar poked a single down the right-field line, Hill followed with her second double and then McKinnies also hit a ball over first base to bring in two runs.

"We wore that side out over there blooping those suckers in," James said.

Hill recorded the last two of her nine strikeouts in the top of the seventh, which ended with Ashlynn Jackson retiring Carlton with a nice catch in deep left field. Whitley and Smith completed the rally in the bottom half.

"We kept our composure when they jumped up 4-2," James said. "I told the girls that two years ago we probably would've given in and it would've been over with. But having a group of seniors like this, they kept fighting and stepped up toward the end. They got us some big hits and got us back in the game."

Mocaby, a freshman, also doubled and junior Chloe Hess also collected a hit, a single in the sixth after McKinnies tied it. That hit led to Miller replacing Kiley Carter in the circle.

"I thought Kiley pitched a heck of a game," Ryan Miller said. "She threw some pitches in some really good counts with two strikes and didn't get the third strike call."

Lacey Jerkins also had a hit for Benton, which had a much younger lineup than the Lady Indians.

"Every time they had a big spot come up, it was one of their older girls coming up," Ryan Miller said. "We started four freshmen today. So it's going to be OK. Du Quoin is going to be a really good team and I thought we really battled today."