In 2014 under Coach Stephen Hammock, the Lady Knights won 12 games, the most wins in a season for the Lady Knights in over 5 years. Since then, Hammock has moved to Florida, and in steps the up-beat Tarah Crooks.
Coach Crooks and her Lady Knights opened their 2015 season with a 6-4 victory over the Spalding Lady Jaguars in Griffin. The Lady Knights racked up 11 hits over the seven innings, limiting the Lady Jags to just four hits.
“Winning the first game definitely sets the tone for our season,” said Crooks. “The girls went out there as a whole with a confident attitude and got the job done.”
In the top of the first inning, the Lady Knights threatened to score early. Mary-Masdon McCrary tallied the Lady Knights first hit of the season with a solid line drive to right field. Briana Hendricks was then hit by a pitch, and freshmen Madison Wilder singled to load the bases. However, the Lady Knights were unable to plate a run after Olivia Lindsey ripped a hard ground ball to the shortstop to end the threat. In the bottom of the first inning, Briana Hendricks sat down Spalding in order.
In the top of the second inning the Lady Knights scratched a run on the scoreboard. Senior Vanessa Harp led the inning off with a walk. Harp was then moved to second base on a perfectly executed bunt by Taylor King. Shemmie Traylor drove home Harp with a RBI single to give the Lady Knights a 1-0 lead. In the bottom of the second inning Hendricks pitched around a double.
In the top of the third inning, the Lady Knights added another run to the board. Hendricks led the inning off with a solid single up the middle. Montana Schug then reached base on a fielder’s choice, forcing Hendricks out. Schug scored the Lady Knights’ second run of the game on a wild pitch.
Spalding tied the game up in the bottom of the third inning, with the benefit of a walk, two base hits, and two stolen bases. The game would not stay tied for long.
In the top of the fourth inning UL punched across two more runs to take a 4-2 lead. Traylor led the inning off with a double, and then stole third base. She would later come home to score on a wild pitch. Briana Hendricks then laced her second single of the game, and came home to score on a RBI base knock from Olivia Lindsey, giving UL the 4-2 lead.
Hendricks once again sat down the Lady Jags in order in the bottom of the fourth inning, and Upson Lee looked to add more runs in the top of the fifth inning. The Lady Knights added one more run when Taylor King scored. King reached base after being hit by a pitch, then stole second base. She later scored on a fielding error by Spalding, giving the Lady Knights a 5-2 lead.’
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Spalding scored their third run of the game, due to a walk, a wild pitch, and a RBI ground out. The game was then delayed for about 45 minutes, due to lightning in the area.
Once the inclement weather moved on, the Lady Knights went back to work with the bats. Montana Schug led off the top of the sixth inning with a double in the left-center gap. Freshman Madison Wilder drove home her first run of the season with a RBI single, scoring Schug and giving the Lady Knights a 6-3 lead.
The Lady Knights would get a scare from Spalding in the bottom of the sixth inning. After a single, Hendricks then walked the bases loaded. She also walked in a run, cutting UL’s lead to 6-4, but she would get out of the inning without any further damage.
The Lady Knights closed out the Lady Jags in the seventh inning, earning the 6-4 season opening victory.
The Lady Knights racked up 11 hits in the game, led by Shemmie Traylor’s two hits, three stolen bases, run scored, and a RBI. Montana Schug added two hits and two runs scored, while Mary Masdon McCrary, Madison Wilder, and Briana Hendricks also added two hits each. Olivia Lindsey finished with a base hit and RBI, and Taylor King tallied a sacrifice and a run scored. Vanessa Harp also scored a run in the Lady Knights victory.
“Our objective was to get the ball in play and make the other team work,” said Crooks. “In the first inning we struggled with the slower pitching from Spalding, but they made the adjustments at the plate which allowed us to string hits together and produce runs. Overall the girls did great at the plate!”
The Lady Knights are loaded with young talent for the 2015 season. Upson Lee has only three seniors on the roster, along with one junior. The majority of the players are sophomores, along with freshman Madison Wilder.
“The coaching staff and myself are very impressed with the young talent and the way they have stepped up,” said Crooks. “Olivia Lindsey (sophomore) and Madison Wilder (freshmen) in the middle infield are a great asset to the already strong defense. Briana Hendricks and Mary-Masdon McCrary are both sophomores who help us out defensively on the mound and behind the plate, but they each contribute tremendously in the line up. These are just a few of the lower classmen who are going to contribute a lot this season. If I had to define the team in one word it would be determined, based on attitude and all of the hard work they have put in for this season.”
The Lady Knights will head to Lamar County today for a double header, with the first game starting at 4:30 p.m. They will host Mundy’s Mill on Monday in their home opener.
Wes McCard can be contacted at 706-647-5414 or on Twitter @WesMc21.