DUBLIN — The Pulaski County Lady Cougar Softball team took a big step towards reaching their pre-season goals Tuesday, as they defeated the Christiansburg Lady Blue Demons 3-2 to advance to the second round of the River Ridge District Tournament.
“Our goal since before the season was to improve throughout the season, and then once we got to the River Ridge District Tournament to earn a spot in the Region 4 Tournament,” said Lady Cougar Head Coach Gina Miano. “By winning the first round game, we’ve put ourselves in a position to reach our goal. Now we need to win one more game and we’re in.”
To put themselves in this position, the Lady Cougars had to do something that is difficult for any sports team to do in the always tough River Ridge District — beat a team three times in a season.
The game started with Christiansburg taking an early lead, scoring one run in the first inning and one run in the second inning. Junior Miranda Tuell got the starting nod at pitcher, and the Lady Blue Demons seemed to have her number for the first time this season. “Miranda was having trouble hitting her spots, and Christiansburg took advantage of it,” said Coach Miano. “She’s one of the reasons we have gotten where we are though, and I won’t hesitate to put her right back in there against anyone else.”
Down 2-0 in the forth inning, the Lady Cougars started to put together some offense. After shutting down Christiansburg for the second inning in a row, the Lady Cougars found themselves in business when Kat Williams made it on base due to a Christiansburg error. Catcher Kari Ray Dunavant also made it to base on a second Christiansburg error of the inning. Williams and Dunavant then proceeded to steal the next bases, putting Williams on third and in scoring position. A sacrifice bunt was put down by Ashley Alley in an attempt to bring Williams in, but a fine play by the Christiansburg first baseman put Alley out and held the runner at third. Junior Destiny Gulley then came in to pinch hit for freshman Kasey Holcomb, and was walked to load the bases. Heather Williams came in next, and an attempt to throw out the runner at third went bad, allowing Williams to score, putting the Lady Cougars behind 2-1.
After a scoreless fifth inning and holding the Lady Blue Demons scoreless in the sixth, the Lady Cougars again put together some offense. Dunavant hit a hard single up the middle to start things off for Pulaski. Alley came in and put down a sacrifice bunt. The coaches had a plan prior to Alley’s bunt though, and when Dunavant hit second base she didn’t stop. The Christiansburg defense was caught napping, and nobody covered third base, allowing Dunavant to easily reach scoring position. Dunavant showed some more fancy base running when a wild pitch got past the catcher, and she stole home. Samantha Solomon hit a hard single to left center field next. Carlyn Samuelson was put in as a pinch runner, and she quickly stole second base. On a passed ball, Samuelson then moved to third base. Holcomb came to bat next, and took it to the last pitch. With a full count, Holcomb hit an RBI single to score Samuelson and bring the score to 3-2 Pulaski.
Christiansburg would have one last chance, but Pulaski put an end to those hopes as they put three batters in a row out to end the game and advance the Lady Cougars to round two.
“We came out and the game started slow for us, but the girls never gave up. They kept fighting,” said Coach Miano. “Bit by bit and run by run they fought back, and that effort finally put us ahead. It was a one run win, but at this point we’ll take it. Now we have to put this game behind us and get ready for Salem.”
The Salem Lady Spartans are the River Ridge District regular season champions. They have one of the most potent pitching games in the district, and they have managed to defeat the Lady Cougars in both games this season. In game one, the Lady Cougars lost by a score of 5-2. In that game the Lady Cougars found out how effective the pitching of Salem’s Ellen Weaver is, as she held them in check throughout most of the game. The Lady Cougars were only able to get two hits over the course of the entire game. In game two, the Lady Cougars lost again, this time by a score of 5-0. It was a different feel to the game this time, however, as Pulaski more or less beat themselves with errors instead of being over-powered.
“We played them much better the second time around. The mistakes we made were just basic ones, but we made them at really bad times. We’re going to have to go into the game this time and play perfect. We can’t afford to make mistakes against Salem. We need to hit the ball and play good defense. If we do that, then we have a good shot at winning. If not, then we’re going to make it really hard on ourselves,” stated Miano.
If Pulaski County can beat the Lady Spartans, they will automatically have a spot in the Region 4 playoffs set for next week. Salem, as the district champions, would take one spot, and the two teams in the tournament championship game would take the other two. If the Lady Cougars lose to the Lady Spartans, then they will face the loser of the Cave Spring vs. Hidden Valley game in a consolation game to determine who moves on to the Region Tournament as the No. 3 seed.
Right now, the Lady Cougars should be focused on one thing and one thing only — Salem. The game is going to be played at the Moyer Sports Complex, with a starting time of 5 p.m.