J.I. Burton drove in two runs in the top of the seventh inning in Tuesday’s Region D tournament opener to end the Lady Blue Knights’ state record streak of consecutive shutouts at 16 games.
Despite a smidgen of melodrama that half-inning, Coeburn held on for the 5-2 victory.
“It’s all about winning. We don’t really care about shutouts. We just want to win,” said Lady Blue Knights ace Hannah Light, who left two runners stranded when she collected her 11th strikeout of the game to quell Burton’s rally.
Ra’Shelle Miller’s fourth-inning single was Burton’s lone hit for the first six innings. She didn’t stay on base for very long, getting thrown out at second by Coeburn catcher Catherine Nixon on an ill-fated steal attempt.
Miller wasn’t done, however, leading off the seventh with a double. April Hamilton shook things up with a following double to left-center that scored Miller.
Undaunted, Light coaxed a grounder and a strikeout for the next two outs. The Lady Raiders (13-8) got a break when Cassie Godsey’s bat glanced off Nixon’s mitt during what appeared to be a routine groundout to the pitcher.
Plate ump John Wayne Martin ruled catcher’s interference and sent Godsey to first. Sheena Tate stepped in the batter’s box, rapping into an uncharacteristic error at first by Alex Wyatt as Hamilton scored.
“They’ve got some great hitters. We’ve been telling them for the last couple of days that (Burton) would score and we needed to be able to handle it,” said Coeburn coach Suzi Atwood, who was relieved to see the shutouts done with.
“I think (the streak) motivated us during a lot of other games to stay focused when we got ahead by a lot. But as we got further on, it sort of got on our shoulders”
Light (19-3) struck out Brittni Wilson to end the threat.
“As soon as we kept (the rally) going, they started making mistakes. All of the sudden, they were human,” said Lady Raiders coach Jon Bright.
“I thought early on we might get some runs on the board and I thought that might set some panic in on them. Hannah Light controlled us up until the very end and didn’t allow that.”
Light, who fell just two games shy of equaling Angela Tincher’s VHSL all-time consecutive shutout record of 17 games, felt some measure of relief.
“I’m glad it happened here and not when it really counts,” said Light, who expects all-out war when the Lady Blue Knights (20-3) face Virginia High in today’s 5 p.m. semifinal game at Virginia-Wise.
“If we didn’t have those runs, it would have hurt us.”
Light was particularly proud of shortstop Samantha Perry, who picked the right time to come out of her hitting slump. Perry stroked three doubles, driving in runs in the fourth and sixth innings.
“I’ve struck out more this year than I have in any other year. I was really just looking for a chance to pull through. I’m glad today was the day,” said Perry, who scored a run in the fourth inning when Taylor Helbert swung into an error at first.
“Either way, we set the (team) record and we were just coming in today looking to win. If they were going to score 10 runs, we had to score 11. That’s all that mattered,” Perry said.
Nixon doubled in the first inning, scoring when Lindsey Lawson rapped into an error at third. Lawson collected an RBI groundout in the third inning.
Chrissy Buchanan (7-4) took the loss for Burton. Only two of the five runs scored against her were earned.