May 23, 2012 — Monday night may have marked the fourth-straight district title for the West Carter Lady Comets, but there was no loser in Carter County's battle for softball supremacy.
After expectedly winning the opening round games of the 62nd District tournament, East and West Carter duked it out in the nightcap, with the Lady Comets claiming victory, 1-0, in a memorable battle on the mound at Morgan County.
West Carter junior ace Leatha Reynolds blazed a path to victory, tossing 10 strikeouts in the win on her way to being named tournament MVP.
The term “losing pitcher” met controversy at the end of the night, with East Carter freshman Morgan Jacobs bringing the heat to the Lady Comet batters, delivering 14 strikeouts in seven innings pitched.
Reynolds spoke about her performance on the hill and also commended the effort given by the other equally impressive Carter County pitcher.
“This was a great game tonight, one that I was thrilled to win,” Reynolds said. “I felt I pitched a solid game, but I also had a lot of help behind me in the field. Morgan pitched an awesome game, and this is what you expect to see when you watch East vs. West.”
Jacobs complimented West, while also noting the atmosphere that these cross-county battles bring.
“Of course we hate to lose a game, but I feel we honestly gave everything we could to try and get the win tonight,” Jacobs said. “It felt good to throw a solid game, but you still hate to lose. It was a great one, and I give them credit, they made the right plays.”
Three up and three down was the story for the first three innings, with Jacobs sitting five West batters in the first two innings, while Reynolds sent four back to the dugout.
A couple of hits was all that could be managed by either team throughout the first three innings, including a pair of singles from East Carter’s Jordyn Wiler and Kayla Hall.
The Lady Raiders missed a golden opportunity to score in its fourth at bat after sophomore Carley Marshall delivered a shot to deep right center, rounding the bases for a triple.
Marshall was left stranded after Reynolds pulled off a couple of clutch strikeouts.
West responded in the next frame when Brooke Callihan, Makaela Buckler and Courtney Reynolds all picked up singles to start the batting cycle.
After Callihan was thrown out at second on an attempted steal, senior Bella Gearhart delivered what turned out to be the game-winning hit on an RBI single to send Buckler in for the score.
Gearhart said she knew the hit was important and that she needed to step up and be a leader.
"In low-scoring games like this one, every hit counts," Gearhart said. "This is my senior year and I really wanted that fourth-straight championship. As a senior, it was a play I knew I had to make."
The next two innings played out much like the first four, with neither team making a considerable threat to score.
Reynolds sealed the victory for the Lady Comets as she ended the Lady Raiders’ comeback hopes with one final resounding strikeout.
"I was really proud of my team tonight. Defense played well, and it was great to see these seniors pick up a fourth title," said West Carter Head Coach Greg Reynolds.
"This was a great battle here tonight, and I tip my hat to them. They're a solid team and have put together a great season."
Despite the loss, East Carter Head Coach Derek Calhoun was still pleased with his team's effort.
"I can't really complain about our team's effort tonight, especially on defense," Calhoun said. "Morgan pitched a great game and we were able to connect offensively, but I give them credit, they just made the plays they needed to win."
Next Monday marks the beginning of the 16th Region softball tournament, in which both East and West Carter will be competing.
Be sure to pick up next Wednesday's edition of the Journal-Times to see how East and West fares in regional play.
Grant Stevens can be reached at gstevensjournal-times.com or by telephone at 1-800-247-6142.