Lady Vols get home softball victory

Starkville Academy's Bailey Carper

Staff Writer

Oak Hill and Starkville Academy are mirror images of each other’s softball programs in many ways.

Both teams have young, inexperienced teams and mistakes are prominent, but they also show glimpses of bright futures ahead. Because of the comparisons it has to each other, it has come away split in the season series early on in the year.

After dropping the first meeting between the two in West Point last week, Starkville Academy got revenge on Monday afternoon in the first home game of the coach Thomas Berkery era. It just so happened to be Berkery’s first win as a high school coach as well as his team exploded for a 17-7 run-rule victory in six innings.

“We’ve been in the cage and talking simplistic swings and driving the ball up the middle," Berkery said of the Lady Vols. "We’ve been working hard. We started practice three weeks earlier than they’ve ever started. We’re putting it together.”

It was a sweet win for Berkery and a sour loss for coach Mitch Bohon and his Lady Raiders. On one hand, the Lady Volunteers found themselves offensively and worked through early adversity and a deficit to grab victory. It’s something that has eluded the program for several years. For Bohon, he felt his team let one get away, especially with an early 4-0 advantage.

“Defensively, we just shoot ourselves in the foot. We give away outs and they capitalize,” Bohon said. “A lot of it is youth and inexperience. When you start eighth graders on a varsity team, you’re asking them to do a lot.”

Holding that 4-0 lead in the second inning, Oak Hill felt confident it was on the way to a rout. Starkville Academy got something going, however as they put five-straight runners on base including four-consecutive hits. Before long, the Lady Vols sent 11 batters to the plate with seven hits. The two RBI single from Bailey Carper tied the game up at 4-4 and Starkville Academy scored three more as it got through the inning with a 7-4 advantage.

The Lady Raiders got a run back in the third, but the Lady Vols added on in the fourth inning as Fallon Parker blasted a two-out double with the bases loaded. Starkville Academy scored two on that, but the softball was thrown away in the infield allowing two more to score, including Parker and the Lady Vols took the 11-5 lead.

In the fifth inning, Starkville Academy loaded the bases with one out and Caralyne Montgomery hit a two-RBI double with RBI to follow from Sarah Montgomery and Paisley Collota that made it 16-7. The Lady Vols finished off the run-rule in the sixth by getting a run in and they earned their first win of the season.

During the loss, the Lady Raiders (2-3) had 10 hits as a team and were led by the 3-for-4 evening of Reagan Freeman. Julianne Glusenkamp and Sydney Pierce each went 2-for-3 with an RBI each and Amberly Harden had an RBI double in the game.

At the plate for Starkville Academy, it pounded out 15 hits and had five multi-hit performances. Caralyne Montgomery led the way with a perfect 4-for-4 afternoon with an RBI. Collota was 3-for-4 with two RBI, Austin Tucker went 2-for-5 with an RBI, Parker was 2-for-4 with two RBI and Sarah Montgomery also went 2-for-4 with a run driven in for the day.

“We just made really good adjustments,” Berkery said. “I’m not used to the bunting and slapping. My background in baseball is that it’s a big-inning sport, especially when you play for (coach Ron) Polk and pro ball. We’re going to stack together big innings.”

The Lady Vols (1-2) got the job done at the plate in a big way, but had a huge effort in the circle from Anna Rae Taylor. The pitcher finished scattering 10 hits and four earned runs while striking out nine batters. As the game wore on, she got stronger.

Despite the loss, Bohon likes Oak Hill’s makeup. it goes into today’s district matchup with Winona Christian at home with another opportunity to get back in the win column where it matters the most.

“I still feel good about where this team is going to go,” Bohon said. “I think midway through the year we’ll catch our stride and the youth won’t be an issue anymore. We can play with anybody that we’ve played so far we’ve just made a few too many mistakes.”

Starkville Academy will return to action on Thursday and also start district play. Canton Academy will travel to Starkville for a 4 p.m. varsity game and the junior varsity will immediately follow.