Quick start powers Lady Grangers
LAGRANGE – It was a nice change of pace.
The LaGrange Lady Grangers have found themselves playing from behind in many of their games this season, but on Tuesday against Troup, they took the lead in the second inning and never looked back.
Shaq Sutton gave the Lady Grangers a 2-1 lead with a two-run home run in the bottom of the second, and they went on to claim an 8-2 win in a Region 5-AAAA game.
LaGrange (4-8 overall) improved to 1-2 in the region, while Troup (7-4) is also 1-2 in region play.
“The energy stays up when we get up early,” said Hannah Karcher, LaGrange’s sophomore pitcher. “That helps a lot. And then we got some insurance runs.”
Karcher had plenty to do with LaGrange’s success.
She not only got the complete-game victory, but she had a two-run single during a five-run third inning that broke the game open.
Karcher didn’t come into the season as LaGrange’s number one pitcher, but that role now belongs to her with the season-ending injury to McLain Skinner.
LaGrange head coach Gabby Heath said the team is in good hands with Karcher on the mound.
“She’s honestly one of the most mentally tough players I’ve ever been around,” Heath said. “You never know being around her what the score in the game is. And to be so young, only a sophomore, to have that type of mentality is great.”
Karcher was helped out by a defense that delivered a superb performance.
“If we make those routine plays, it makes a world of difference, not giving them extra outs like we did yesterday (in an 8-2 loss to Callaway),” Heath said.
Skye Loftin got the start for Troup and pitched three innings, and Lauren Brooks worked the final three innings and gave up one unearned run and no hits.
LaGrange only had three hits in the game, but Troup hurt itself with errors.
Troup, which came into the game red hot having won seven of its previous eight games, scratched a run across in the top of the second inning to take the early lead.
Loftin led off with a single, and after advancing on a Kinley Stanford bunt, she later scored on a groundout by Brooks.
That lead was short-lived.
In the bottom of the second, Destiny Fitzpatrick walked, and Sutton came to the plate and hammered the ball over the left-field fence for the two-run home run.
“My teammate was on base, and I was just looking to score her,” Sutton said.
Troup got a one-out single from Kayla Lane in the top of the third, but Karcher got the next two batters to keep her team on top.
LaGrange then busted it open in its half of the third inning.
LaGrange only had two hits in the inning, but there were also two walks, two hit batters, and a pair of critical errors.
Te’a Winston reached on one of the errors leading off the inning, Mo Strozier followed with a base hit, and Lauren Kuerzi walked to load the bases.
Next up was Karcher, and her base hit plated two runs to give LaGrange a 4-1 lead.
Fitzpatrick was hit by a pitch to load the bases once again, and Sutton walked to drive in another run, and it was 5-1.
Katleyn Hill then reached on the second error in the inning, and another run came home on that play, pushing the lead to 6-1.
With the bases still loaded, Ricki Cruzado was hit by a pitch, and that plated the inning’s fifth and final run, and LaGrange had a 7-1 lead.
“Getting out early and going up was very helpful,” Sutton said.
Troup threatened in the fourth inning.
With one out, Loftin and Stanford had back-to-back singles, but LaGrange got a big defensive play to get out of trouble.
Winston, LaGrange’s third baseman, fielded the ball, stepped on the bag at third and threw to first to complete the inning-ending double play.
Troup scored a single run the sixth inning.
Maddie Weathers singled, and Loftin reached on an error later in the inning to bring a run in, and LaGrange’s lead was down to 7-2.
LaGrange, with some help from Troup’s defense, got that run back in the bottom of the sixth.
Katelynn Mobley got a bunt down, and when the throw went over the first baseman’s head, she kept running.
The throw back to the infield then got past the third baseman, and Mobley was able to score, and LaGrange led 8-2.
Troup, with base hits by Cierra Gilbert and Lane and a walk by Abby Taylor, loaded the bases in the top of the seventh, but Karcher got a flyout for the third out to end the game.
Lane had a three-hit day for Troup, and Loftin had a pair of hits.
LaGrange will host region foe Sandy Creek on Thursday, while Troup will visit Cedartown for a region game.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports