Pantherettes ride hots bats, complete game on mound from Hall to pull away from Bells
On Tuesday, the No. 2 North Lamar Pantherettes held their second home game of the season at Pantherette Field, this time against the Bells Lady Panthers of Class 3A. In this high level pre-district matchup, the Pantherettes rode timely hits and a complete-game gem from senior ace pitcher Jaycie Hall to eventually turn a 2-1 deficit into a 5-3 win.
The Pantherettes (13-1) entered the bottom of the fifth inning trailing Bells 2-1. However, both Hall and the North Lamar bats came alive against another great opponent. Along with the victory over Bells, the Pantherettes have recorded several impressive wins against quality opponents and are doing so as a team.
“It’s going well, I mean, we’ve played good teams throughout the beginning of our season, and it’s truly a team effort,” Pantherettes head softball coach Ashley Endsley said. “In some games, some of our hitters will be on where others haven’t, and there are other games where it has been flip-flopped. Why we’ve been successful is because it’s taken all 12 of us and all 12 of them doing their job and fulfilling their role on the team.”
The team is grateful to have D1-commit ace pitchers like Hall and Karsyn Iltis on the mound for them. However, facing great teams puts the pressure on the Pantherettes to execute defensively instead of relying on their elite arms on the mound to record every out.
“Obviously we have two amazing pitchers, and it’s not very often that we’re getting to see opportunities to have to make good plays,” North Lamar senior center fielder Noel Rainey said. “When those opportunities do arise, we’re going 110 percent, and we’re making both good and routine plays. That is the best thing we can do. It’s good for us to be fully prepared like this for the playoffs because that is what we expect to see.”
After Hall reached base after getting hit by a pitch and Iltis drawing a walk herself, junior catcher Sloane Hill stepped to the plate and bashed the ball to right field for a stand up RBI double that cleared the bases. With that, North Lamar reclaimed the lead at 3-2.
Hall went 1-2-3 in the top of the sixth inning on just seven pitches, then Rainey cranked a solo homer over the left field wall, then Iltis drove in Kate Rainey on an RBI triple to increase the lead to 5-2.
Hall allowed a one-out solo home run to the Lady Panthers in the top of the seventh, but Endsley’s confidence in her ace pitchers did not waver in this case for Hall. After a brief meeting on the mound, Hall stayed in the game and continued to fight.
“That’s been Jaycie for four years now. Any time she’s been down or people have hit her, she’s made it her goal to come back even stronger with the next girl or the next pitch. That’s what I’ve always loved from her is that she’s a true fighter and she never wants to let her team down. She makes that next pitch work or will adjust in the bullpen. It really shows true character on her side and how bad she wants to be successful.”
Passion is not the only thing that fuels Hall on the mound as strategy and work ethic both play equally important factors in her craft.
“I go through the lineup at least once and then I kind of evaluate their hitters. I take notes on what’s working against them as their weaknesses,” Hall said. “They (Bells) have a couple really good hitters on there, and I had to really bear down and spin the ball against them as best as I could. When I went through the lineup again, I just tried to stay out of my head and stick to what I found out would work against them. I don’t want to show them any signs of struggle so we can take care of business then come back out to hit.”
Bells got to Hall a bit more by getting runners on first and second, but the ace pitcher settled in and recorded the final two outs to secure the 5-3 victory.
Along with adjustments on the mound, the Pantherettes are just as vigilant at the plate as the hitters observe then communicate strategy with one another.
“Even if we were having trouble the first time through the lineup, we have to see it and make those adjustments after our first at bat,” Rainey said. “It’s tough when you can’t always make those adjustments, but the 7-8-9 hole hitters can see the people in the front of the lineup. We got jammed so they were able to scoot out. It’s all about paying attention and being behind each other, and it’s a game of momentum. We get excited over one hit and the next person goes up ready to bat them in. If somebody is on the bag, you’re expected to get them in — that’s your job.”
When North Lamar’s bats began to cook in the later innings, Hall said it helped her attack the hitters she was facing more freely, and her leadership in the dugout helped spark her team.
“We always try to score every inning, and it makes me feel good as a pitcher to have the run support behind me,” Hall said. “It also puts pressure on the other team. I knew we struggled a little bit at the beginning of the game, but I kept reminding myself about how we always come back and can get those timely hits. Noel (Rainey) and Sloane (Hill) both got good hits…I knew we had the fight in us, I knew we could score, and I knew we had to increase our lead since we knew they (Bells) were going to try to score.”
Hall pitched all 7 innings for North Lamar with 3 ER and 10 strikeouts while she also recorded a single and drew two walks at the plate. Senior infielder Macy Richardson went 2-for-4 with one run scored while McKenzie Dickson, Emma Layton, Noel Rainey, Iltis, and Hill each recorded one hit apiece. Kate Rainey used her speed to score two runs as Hall’s courtesy runner.
The Pantherettes will face Crandall in the Rains Tournament on Thursday. For more sports coverage, click here.