MT. VERNON – Herrin couldn’t slug their way to victory Tuesday afternoon so instead, they relied on small-ball.
The Tigers put down nine bunts in the game and were effective in every situation as they downed Mt. Vernon, 5-0, in a class 3A high school softball semifinal contest at the Mt. Vernon Regional.
“They found our weakness today,” said Mt. Vernon coach Bill England. “It’s something we have to work on for next year, definitely. It was a great season. I hate to have it come to an end here, but we were competitive and it’s been that way all year long.”
The game was scoreless until the bottom of the fourth inning when Herrin scratched an unearned run across the board.
Rebecca Moffett bunted and reached on an error. She moved to second on the overthrow then third on a bunt single before scoring on the third straight bunt from the Tigers by Beth Meadows to make it 1-0.
Mt. Vernon left a runner in scoring position in the first three innings and again in the sixth inning, but was unable to come through with a clutch hit to get on the board.
Ashton McPherson led off with a single and ended up at second on a throwing error. She made it to third but was stranded.
Then in the second, Addi Sargent reached on an error and advanced to second on the throw. However, her courtesy runner Ashlynn Depew could get no further than third base.
The trend continued in the third when Jordyn Bauer led off the scoreless inning with a double, but she only made it to third on a steal after the next two batters grounded out.
“We had several innings there where we had missed opportunities,” said England. “You have to find a way to capitalize on those and today we didn’t.
“They weren’t hitting Addi [Sargent] and we were playing good defense behind her. They had to find a way to get underneath our skin and they found it with the small-game.”
In the fifth, the Tigers pushed across two runs to take a 3-0 lead. Tori Schullian reached on an error then Makayla Smothers bunted her way on.
Both runners were able to take an extra base when Mt. Vernon was unable to cover either third or second in time. That led up to Herrin’s clean-up hitter Raegen Gosha laying down a sacrifice bunt to score Schullian for a 2-0 lead. That was followed by another bunt and run scoring RBI from Calli Sutcliffe for a 3-0 lead.
“They didn’t get to be 30-4 by not being a good ballclub,” said England. “They are a good ballclub and when we went down to their place we had a smash-fest.”
In the sixth, Cheyenne Hess led off the inning with a double. It was followed up with a walk from Meadows.
Destiny Hosman’s sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position for the top of the order. Lexi Childers followed with a sacrifice bunt to score Hess and Schullian singled to right field to bring Meadows for a 5-0 lead.
“They did what they needed to do today,” said England. “That was our downfall.”
Childers finished 3-for-4 with a sacrifice bunt and a RBI and Hess was 2-for-3 with a double and a RBI. All five runs were driven home by five different Herrin players.
For the Lady Rams – who finished the season at 15-20 and won their first regional game since 2011 – they were led at the dish by McPherson and her 2-for-3 performance. Bauer picked up the other Mt. Vernon hit.
“I told the girls before the game we didn’t have anything to lose,” said England. “They’re the top seed and they had everything to lose. We hung around, we had our chances and we had our chances to compete.”