Cleveland softball coach Connie Stobert had a feeling before the Lady Raiders took the field against McMinn County it was going to be their day — how close she was.
The Lady Raiders (0-15, 0-5 District 5-AAA) fought back from a 3-0 deficit to take a 6-3 lead before succumbing to the Lady Cherokees (11-13, 3-3) by a 10-9 final.
“That was the best we have played yet,” said Cleveland coach Connie Stobert who continues to see promise from her young Lady Raiders. “We could have eliminated some of the mistakes we made, but most of their runs were earned, which is huge for us. We’ve been down in the dumps lately and that’s a big confidence booster for us just to be able to come out and compete. It was a high-scoring game at that. I’m very proud of them.”
McMinn County got on the brand-spanking new scoreboard at Brenda McKenzie Lawson Field first with two runs in the top of the third. The Lady Cherokees added another run in the fourth and held a 3-0 lead when Cleveland came to bat in the bottom half of what proved to be the best inning of the season thus far for the Lady Raiders.
Hannah Holland opened for Cleveland with the first of five straight Lady Raider singles. Brittany Arnold, Haley Hodgson, Jasmine Martin and Abi Dye followed Holland’s lead to tie the game at 3-3. Aneisha Barber worked McMinn pitching for a walk to keep the inning going, setting up a delayed steal by Dye that sent Martin racing home to give the Lady Raiders the lead. Barber made it a 6-3 game scoring on an Allison Botts single.
After giving up a single run in the top of the fifth, the wheels fell off for Cleveland in the sixth when McMinn cranked out four runs on three hits, two walks and a Cleveland error. The Lady Cherokees took a 10-6 lead with one more in the top of the seventh.
“They got a little bit tired. My pitcher (Hodgson) is a little bit tired, she’s been pitching a lot this season and our backup wasn’t warm. We didn’t get a chance to get her ready because we were hitting through the lineup. I would have like to throw her in there just to change it up a bit, but it just wasn’t the right moment for us,” Stobert explained.
But the Lady Raiders refused to go quietly.
Shay Sparks trotted to first with a lead-off walk in the bottom of the seventh and Holland made it to first courtesy of a McMinn error. Arnold stepped to the plate and made it a 10-8 game with a blistering single just inside the bag at third scoring Sparks and Holland. Arnold stood on second after a fielder’s choice and made it to third on a wild pitch. Dye trotted to first on the second walk of the inning and Arnold hurried home on a pickoff attempt to first.
It would be as close as the Lady Raiders could get. McMinn finished the 2 1/2 hour game with a final strikeout to lock up the win.
“I’m very proud of them. They played hard and made a lot of improvement. They came back, they showed confidence and that’s what we need,” said Stobert.
The Lady Raiders try again this evening for that elusive first win today at Soddy-Daisy. The first pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m.
LADY CHEROKEES 10, LADY RAIDERS 9
McMinn County 002 114 2 — 10 10 1
Cleveland 000 600 3 — 9 11 4
WP: Destiny Watson; LP: Haley Hodgson. 2B: Rachel Lillard, Abby Bryant (MC). Other highlights: Lillard 3-4, Alyssa King 2-4, Lauren Benson 2-4 (MC); Brittany Arnold 2-3, Hodgson 2-3, Abi Dye 2-3 (C). Records: McMinn County 11-13, 3-3 District 5-AAA; Cleveland 0-15, 0-5.