ATHENS — The Cleveland Lady Raiders came once again tantalizingly close to breaking the goose egg in the district win column Thursday against McMinn County.
The Lady Raiders trailed the Lady Cherokees until the seventh inning, when a four-run outburst put them out front. From there they could only watch helplessly as a questionable call on a tying home run in the bottom of the seventh led to an extra inning and an eventual 8-7 McMinn County win.
“The girls played a good game, especially coming off yesterday,” said Lady Raiders coach Connie Stobert of the no-hitter pitched against Cleveland on Wednesday. “Today, to come out and be very active and aggressive at bat and putting the ball in play is a very good turnaround. We just left too many runners on base.”
The Lady Raiders banged out 13 hits and picked up safeties in every inning but the first, including the eighth. In the end, however, 11 stranded runners told the final story.
McMinn put three runs on the board in the bottom of the second inning, but Cleveland fought back for two runs in the top of the third.
Teliyah Cobb picked up a two-out walk followed by a single from Brittany Arnold. Ambra Belcher trotted to first, loading the bases with the second walk of the inning. Gracyn Walkup notched two RBIs with a double to center field, cutting the McMinn lead to 3-2.
The Lady Cherokees added one more run in the fourth and two more in the fifth, pulling out to a 6-2 advantage.
The Lady Raiders cut into the McMinn cushion by one with an RBI double to right off the bat of Grace Fugate in the top of the sixth.
Cleveland lit up the scoreboard with four runs in the Lady Raiders’ next at bat. Lauren Lee singled to lead off the inning and moved up on a Cobb sacrifice. Lee scored on a McMinn error that put Arnold on second. Belcher followed with her second hit of the game. Arnold made it 6-5 on a ground ball to first. Belcher and Haley Hodgson, who picked up a walk, scored when Brina Lovelace smacked a two-RBI single that put the Lady Raiders out front 7-6.
McMinn tied the game on a controversial home run that Stobert felt passed by the left side of the foul pole in left field.
The Lady Raiders loaded the bases in the top of the eighth but were unable to put a run across.
Back-to-back-to-back hits by McMinn County gave the Lady Cherokees the 8-7 victory.
“That felt like it may have cost us the ballgame, but there were several opportunities for us to come out ahead, and we didn’t,” said Stobert philosophically.
“It’s kind of coming in big waves for us, one day we’re down and the next we’re good. I want them to keep remembering the game is a process and each inning is a step. We have to be disciplined. Even though we had some calls I felt were questionable, it still comes down to us being disciplined every step of the way.”
LADY CHEROKEES 8, LADY RAIDERS 7
Cleveland 002 001 40 — 7 13 3
McMinn County 030 120 11 — 8 15 3
WP: Hope Mizell. LP: Haley Hodgson. HR: Lexie Axley, Mizell (MC). 2B: Grace Fugate, Brina Lovelace (C); Lydia Simpson, Amanda Bortle (MC). Highlights: Lauren Lee 3-5, Grecyn Walkup 2-4, Fugate 2-4 (C); Simpson 2-4, Jessie Mizell 2-4, Axley 2-4, H. Mizell 2-4, Alicia Long 2-4, Hannah Lyle 3-4, Bortle 2-4 (MC). Records: Cleveland 2-17, 0-12 District 5-AAA.