Thursday, May 8, 2014
The Stratford Lady Knights wanted to take care of business and take care of it quickly.
They did not want to leave anything to chance.
“We get in, we score, we win this game and move on,” said Coach Debra Tolar as her Lady Knights wrapped up the 2014 District VII championship with a decisive 11-0 thumping of visiting Conway on May 7 on Crowfield Boulevard. “I hope their coaches understand why I bunted with a 9-0 lead. I wanted that 10th run on the board. Their team is known for their comebacks.”
After pitcher Nikki Linthicum retired the Lady Tigers in order in the top of the first, Stratford got down to business in their half of the first, sending 13 hitters to the plate and erupting for eight runs.
Linthicum led off with a single and advanced to second on Kayli Miles' error to short. Kayli Lehmer drove in both Linthicum and Miles with a single to left. Jordan Prince walked and Madison Ryan was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Harmon followed with a two-RBI single up the middle to score Lehmer and Prince. Hannah Roberts singled and Megan Lindberg walked to bring Linthicum back to the plate with the bases loaded for the third time in the inning. The Lady Knights' pitcher responded with a two-RBI basehit. Miles would cap the inning, driving in the final run of the inning on a walk.
Stratford added single runs in the second, third and fourth innings to put the game away under the 10-run rule in the fifth behind Linthicum's shutout performance. Emily Harmon drove home a run in the second with an RBI single. Ryan doubled in the third, stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly to right by Lehmer. Ryan doubled in the fourth and later came home on Harmon's third hit of the night and fourth RBI.
That would be more than enough for Linthicum who scattered four hits in the championship performance.
Assistant coach Curtis Moore said the district championship game was nothing different than the way the Lady Knights approached each game and each opponent throughout the playoffs.
“We came ready to take care of business and to get the job done against each opponent we faced,” he said. “This team has worked hard and prepared all season, and when they hit the field they take care of their business and move on to the next opponent.”
Stratford has little time to savor the district title as the Lower State Final Four tournament begins on Saturday, May 10. The Lady Knights hit the road for the first round.
“We have our eye on the bigger prize,” Tolar said. “Like in 1996, if we win it all we'll have a dog pile and I'll even join that one.”