GRAY — Cora Baker had one shot at redemption, and she made the most of it.
After committing a costly fielding error in the top of the sixth inning, Baker stepped to the plate in the bottom of the frame and smacked the first pitch she saw over the right field fence to propel Daniel Boone to a 4-1 win over Dobyns-Bennett in a crucial Big 8 Conference clash Wednesday.
Baker’s three-run homer put Boone into a three-way tie atop the league standings with D-B and Science Hill entering the final week of the season.
If Baker hadn’t connected on the first pitch, things could have turned out much different.
“It’s a good thing she hit it because she was going to bunt it the next pitch,” Boone coach Rick Wagner said. “We would have bunted it the next time and tried to score when they threw it to first because Jennine (Duncan) is just that fast. Cora did take advantage of a good situation because she wasn’t going to get another one.”
The game was scoreless through five innings before Baker rushed a throw to first base in an effort to retire Kourntey Bailiff. The throw was in the dirt, allowing Sierra Call to score from second base to put D-B in the driver’s seat.
“When she reached down to pick it up with her glove, I knew we were in trouble because every time we do that, we’re too slow getting rid of it,” Wagner said.
But after Duncan and Andrea Rogers reached base in the bottom of the inning, Baker atoned for her miscue.
“My coaches just got done telling me don’t be the hero,” Baker said. “I just needed to put the ball in play. That’s all I did.”
Makenzie Lilley threw a good pitch on the outside corner, but for the first time that Wagner can remember, his senior pitcher hit an opposite-field home run.
“I’m going to be honest with you — Cora hasn’t exactly been knocking the cover off of it lately,” Wagner said. “But she stepped up like a senior should step up. If you’re program is any good, (your seniors) have to make plays when it counts, and she did.”
Baker then struck out Ashley Christian in the top of the seventh to win her final home game.
“It’s very sweet,” Baker said. “We’ve never won on senior night and winning on senior night is the best thing anybody could do for me.”
Baker (17-2) allowed one unearned run on six hits in seven innings for Boone (27-5, 10-2). Afterward, she lauded Megan Walker for doing such a great job behind the plate all season, tabbing her as one of the team’s unsung heroes.
Kayla Sanders was 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored while Kellie Waycaster added an RBI double for the Lady Trailblazers.
Makenzie Lilley was nearly flawless for the Tribe (31-12, 9-2) through five innings before running into trouble in the sixth. Lilley allowed three earned runs on seven hits in six innings.
Christian had a double for the Lady Indians while Samantha Lilley came up with a pair of hits.
“For five innings, we did well, and then they just hit it,” D-B coach Andy Hubbard said. “The pitch (Baker) hit for a three-run homer, that was a good pitch. She just hit it.”
With one week to go in the regular season, D-B appears to have the toughest path ahead. The Lady Indians will need to beat Crockett once and Volunteer twice to stay atop the league standings.
“We’ve got to try to win out,” Hubbard said. “But it’s not the end of the world. We were in first to start the game and we’re still in first. They picked us third or fourth, so we’re still okay. I don’t feel any pressure.”