Then came the fifth inning.
The Lady Mustangs exploded for nine runs and finished district play with an unblemished 12-0 record.
“We got better on defense, but it was just a matter of time before somebody was going to start scoring. I wanted it to be us that took the momentum,” said Lady Raiders Head Coach Connie Stobert.
The Lady Raiders had their chances in the first four innings during the battle of sophomores in the circle between Cleveland starting pitcher Haley Hodgson and Walker Valley’s Alicia Raymond.
Raymond held the Lady Raiders to only one hit during the dual, a single by Allison Botts, and finished with the single safety in five innings of work. The Walker Valley righty struck out one and walked no one. Hodgson gave up five hits and only one run in the first four innings before being touched for four hits and four runs in the top of the fifth. The Lady Raiders’ workhorse ended her day after 4 1/3 innings, fanning three Lady Mustangs and giving up no walks.
“I think the girls did a good job of adjusting. It took us a while, but that happens sometimes. I thought they came through in the fifth and played well. They played great defense. I couldn’t ask for a better defense game,” Lady Mustangs coach Lauren Limburg said of the errorless effort.
Walker Valley’s first run of the game came in the third on a home run to left field just inside the foul pole by Hallie Davis, her 11th of the season. The Lady Mustang sophomore second baseman was a perfect 4-4 at the plate with three doubles — including two in the fifth — to go with the dinger. The sophomore slugger ended her afternoon with two RBIs and scored twice.
Brittany Nettles added a double in the second.
Hodgson gave up the ball to Botts, with Cleveland trailing 5-0 with one out in the fifth after three singles and a double.
Stobert later praised the work of the youngster who has given a load of strong effort inside the circle for the Lady Raiders.
“I think Haley pitched a good game. She got tired toward the end, and I wanted to try and switch it up some to see if we could throw them off a little bit,” she said of the effort.
Botts stepped in and fanned the first batter she faced before the Lady Mustangs added five more runs to go up 10-0.
Lara Bean provided power at the plate with her first homer of the year, a blast over the center-field fence. Bean, another sophomore, had three RBIs for the Lady Mustangs. Rachel Percy kept the run alive with a pair of singles, and AJ Chancey also picked up a hit in the outburst. Percy finished with a pair of runs batted in.
The Lady Mustangs shut Cleveland down in order in the bottom of the fifth to end the afternoon.
“We’ve got to start hitting earlier. That’s going to be key for us, getting runs on the board earlier. But, overall, I’m pleased and proud of the girls for their hard work,” said Limburg.
The perfect district record is something Limburg wants the girls to be proud of, but cautions the record will mean nothing without a follow up in the tournament.
“I’m really proud of the girls for that, it’s a big accomplishment. But, it starts with the next game. You do everything in the regular season for the postseason. We’ve got to be prepared, we’ve got to practice up and we’ve got to be ready,” Limburg stated.
The Lady Mustangs have one more tune up before the district tournament with a road game to East Hamilton at 5 p.m.
A reflective Stobert said the Lady Raiders continue to learn and will hopefully take some of the hard knock lessons learned in 2013 and build on a better 2014.
“It just comes down to our whole season, not making adjustments like we need to and getting the same results,” she said. “The regular season is over, and I told them everyday should be a lesson to them. [They should] learn from the feedback on adjustments we need to make, the things we need to do and the things we will use to build on for next season. As much as it hurts, we’ve just got to look on it as a learning opportunity to build on and try to get better.”
LADY MUSTANGS 10, LADY RAIDERS 0
Walker Valley 001 09 — 10 12 0
Cleveland 000 00 — 0 1 1
WP: Alicia Raymond. LP: Haley Hodgson. HR: Hallie Davis, Lara Bean (WV). 2B: Davis 3, Brittany Nettles. Other Highlights: Davis 4-4, Rachel Percy 3-4, Bean 2-3 (WV). Records: Walker Valley 24-3, 12-0 District 5-AAA; Cleveland 0-24, 0-12.