Willis Ks 9, lifts Straughn to 6-1 win

Published 12:04 am Friday, March 15, 2013

Straughn freshman pitcher Hayden Willis had nine strikeouts in the Lady Tigers’ 6-1 win over Excel Thursday night. |                                             Andrew Garner/Star-News

Straughn freshman pitcher Hayden Willis had nine strikeouts in the Lady Tigers’ 6-1 win over Excel Thursday night. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Straughn freshman Hayden Willis had a smooth game for the Lady Tigers.

The starting pitcher threw six innings and allowed no runs on two hits and struck out nine batters to help lead the Lady Tigers to a 6-1 area win over Excel on Thursday night.

Willis was on her command early on the the game, striking out four in the first two innings.

“That’s probably as smooth as I’ve seen her,” SHS coach Trent Taylor said about Willis. “She seemed really relaxed out there. That’s a lot of pressure on a ninth grader.”

The Lady Tigers took a lot of the pressure off of Willis’ shoulders as they scored two runs in the first, one run in the third and three in the fifth.

With this victory, the Lady Tigers improve to 4-2 overall, and 1-0 in Class 3A, Area 2.

“It was good to get the first area win,” Taylor said. “Again, we hit the ball well, but then in the middle innings they were kind of well, we got a little lead and got a little lull there.”

Payton Mitchell came in to relieve Willis in the seventh inning to get the save for SHS. She walked two and allowed one run on no hits.

SHS first baseman Paige Taylor hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning to give the Lady Tigers a 6-0 advantage. Taylor’s shot to center left was her first ever.

“In all honesty, there are probably five girls I feel are capable (of hitting a home run), but I didn’t know if it would happen this year, or if it would happen at all or who it would happen with,” Taylor — who is Paige’s father — said. “Now, if we can just get everybody else to settle down and swing for base hits.”

In the first inning, Straughn’s Molly Stewart — who went 2-for-4 with two RBIs — hit her two runners in on a single that scored Katelyn Kinsaul and Laken Harris. Kinsaul and Harris reached on an error and a single, respectively.

Stewart later tried for second when she rounded first base, but was thrown out on a shot from Excel center fielder Lee Parker.

SHS went ahead 3-0 in the bottom of the third when Stewart came in on an RBI double from Kristen Peavey.

Taylor’s three-run home run came on a 2-and-1 count.

To end the top of the sixth, the Lady Tigers got a double play when catcher Sarah Langford threw a batter out at first base on a bunt; and Harris connected with left fielder Morgan Waite for the force out at third base.

The Straughn coach said the season is young right now and that there is still “room for improvement.”

“There are 14 girls on the varsity team and I’ve got all the confidence in all of them,” Taylor said. “I’m trying to get them all enough playing time to where they’re in it. It’s still early.

“We’re playing all right, but we’ve got a lot of room for improvement,” he said.

Harris went 3-for-4 and scored two runs; Taylor went 2-for-4 with three RBIs; Peavey went 1-for-2 with one RBI; and Willis went 1-for-3.

Excel’s Paige Lassiter went 2-for-3.

In junior varsity action, the Lady Tigers edged EHS 19-14.

SHS will be back in action on Monday when it visits Pleasant Home.