ELDRIDGE — Two sophomore hurlers showed what they could do on Wednesday night in a Mississippi Athletic Conference softball doubleheader between the North Scott and Davenport West.
The Lancers' Ryann Cheek struck out 13 to help the hosts take the first game, 4-3, while the Falcons' Kaylie Caldwell allowed just three hits to help West gain the split with a 6-3 victory in the nightcap.
Cheek seemed to get stronger in the most difficult of situations as she worked her way out of runners in scoring position in four of the seven innings. Twice West had runners on second and third with less than two outs in the first three innings, and both times Cheek struck out the next two hitters to avoid any damage.
Cheek did allow a game-tying, two-run single from Caldwell in the seventh inning of the first game to lose a 3-1 lead. But the Lancers were able to pull out the win after a ball hit by Cheek was not fielded cleanly by the Falcons in the seventh inning, allowing Abby Moeller to score the winning run.
In between, Cheek seemed to dig down and overpower the West hitters at times en route to her double-digit strikeouts.
"She is just a force when her pitches are working," North Scott coach Holly Hoelting said. "It's hard to hit when she is finding her spots. That is awesome she was able to work out of tough situations. We work on the mental game a lot, pitching and just in general, and everyone on the team really has bought into that."
Cheek helped herself by smashing a home run to dead center-field in the second inning to put North Scott up 2-0, and it looked as if the hosts were in good position after Kate Hayes made it 3-1 going into the seventh with an RBI single. But West got hits from Kaylynn Sparks and Abbey Smith, and an error allowed Taylor Utterback to reach to load the bases. Cheek fanned the next two hitters before Caldwell smacked a single to center to tie the game at 3-3.
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After the first two hitters for North Scott struck out to start the seventh, Moeller walked to keep things alive. She came around with the winning run after the West error.
The Falcons did not hang their heads, however, and Caldwell's pitching was a big reason the visitors bounced back. She did allow solo home runs to Sam Lee and Brooke Kilburg but other than that, Caldwell kept the Lancers off-balance for the remainder of the game. She retired 12 of the last 14 batters she faced and struck out six to snag the win.
Erica Ralfs, who actually pitched strong in the first game, smashed a two-run homer for West while Abbey Smith drove in two runs. Ashley Smith and Rylee Rommel also had RBIs for the Falcons in their win. Cheek had the other RBI for North Scott in the second game with a sacrifice fly.
"In general, we are a young team and sometimes mistakes happen (like in Game 1), but we stick together," West coach Jim Weisrock said. "We always concentrate on sticking together as a team. That certainly showed in the second game, and we kept battling. I always say we have two, high-quality pitchers in (Caldwell and Ralfs), but we just need to score some more runs and sometimes with young players that can be tough. But at the end of the first game and at the beginning of the second game, we started to execute a little bit better and started to get rolling (offensively)."
With the split, both teams are still in the running for the conference title. North Scott (13-6 overall) is on the heels of conference leader Davenport Assumption with a MAC mark of 6-2 while West is 5-3 in conference. The Falcons are 9-9 overall.
"Both games were really well-played, and when we shook hands with coach (Weisrock), we agreed that both games were really good," Hoelting said. "That's the thing in softball, the team that gets the timely hit usually wins and (West) did that in the second game, and that's just how it works."