Until then, growing pains and hard knocks will be par for the course.
“We’ve kind of been up and down, but that’s kind of a good thing. Compared to last year where we were consistently bad the whole time, our ups and downs have been showing we are doing some good things,” said Lady Raiders coach Connie Stobert after Tuesday’s 14-3 loss to McMinn County.
The Lady Raiders (1-7, 0-6 District 50-AAA) started off the first two innings with hits by Allison Botts and Teliyah Cobb. Shay Sparks’ RBI single in the third cut the McMinn County lead to 3-1.
After holding the Tribe scoreless in the fourth, McMinn (12-8, 2-3) got to Botts (who started in the circle in place of an ill Haley Hodgson) in a big way, scoring nine runs on nine hits. Alicia Long put an exclamation point on the inning for the Lady Cherokees with a two-out home run to left field.
“We kind of started off good and Alison did a great job of hanging in there. She is our No. 2 pitcher; Haley was sick today so she stepped in. We may have had a little bit different outcome with Haley pitching, but our defense let her down a little bit,” said Stobert. “Our defense for some reason suffers from the domino effect and falls apart on us. We have done a lot better on defense cutting down on errors, but sometimes we are kind of up and down. We either have a few errors or we have a lot, and that ‘a lot’ kills us.”
The Lady Raiders avoided a five inning run-rule game scoring twice in the bottom half of the inning. Ambra Belcher led off for Cleveland with a homer over the left-field fence. Grace Fugate walked one batter later and scored on a McMinn error with two out.
McMinn tacked on two more runs in the top of the seventh to make it a 14-3 final.
“Our offense is getting a lot better. We did some things today, we moved some people. We left a few on base but we’re still doing a lot of good things — I’m really proud of them for that,” said Stobert.
“We have improved from last season and that’s all you can ask for. The girls are out here working really hard. We’ve got a lot of really young girls with little experience and some that haven’t played in several years. For what we have, we are doing a lot better.”
LADY CHEROKEES 14, LADY RAIDERS 3
McMinn County 012 090 2 — 14 18 1
Cleveland 001 002 0 — 3 5 4
LP: Hope Mizell. LP: Allison Botts. HR: Alicia Long (MC); Ambra Belcher (C). 2B: Shelby Theobald, Jesse Mizell, Ruby Culberson (2), Lydia Simpson, Darby Stephens (MC). Highlights: Culberson 2-5, Long 3-5, Simpson 2-5, Mizell 3-5, Stephens 2-4. Records: McMinn County 12-8, 2-3 District 5-AAA; Cleveland 1-8, 0-6.