By Mike Monahan
Lake Land, the No. 19 softball team in the nation, twice had to rally Thursday at Laker Field to extend its winning streak to eight.
The Lakers trailed Lincoln Trail after three innings in the first game before scoring five unanswered runs for the win.
The second game saw Lincoln Trail leading 5-2 after four and a half innings and ahead 5-4 heading into the bottom of the sixth when the Lakers scored four runs en route to an 8-6 victory.
“They kept their composure,” said Lake Land coach Nic Nelson. “We got away from a strategy we had in the first couple of innings and then lost it for a couple of innings and we kind of came back with the strategy in the final innings. We told them to take a strike as we wanted that pitcher to throw a few more pitches.”
Lake Land has been ranked nationally as high as No 11.
The eight wins in a row ties for the longest of the season, matching its performance from March 21-31.
The last loss was 3-1 to Lincoln Trail on April 3.
“We split with Lincoln Trail last time at their place, and I just knew that they (her teammates) were coming out for blood,” said LLC leadoff batter Ashlyn Hicks, a sophomore from Marion, Kentucky. “It (the loss to the Statesmen) was brought up the whole time. We got to shut them up and we have to keep it going. We came prepared for these games.”
The Lakers, 35-9, are ranked 12th nationally for runs scored ninth at 359, ninth in home runs with 62, 13th in runs batted in with 324, fifth in walks with 171 and sixth in hit by pitch with 42.
Lake Land trailed the second game 5-4 when it batted around in the sixth to score four runs, starting with a solo home run by Klair Fagot, a sophomore from Lexington, Neb. It was her seventh of the year.
“It was a big play,” said Eva Richardson, a 2021 Casey-Westfield grad. The homer sailed well over the 225-foot fence.
“That was really exciting,” Richardson said. “She had not been down a little bit and was down on the day. She didn’t really get the big hit today and then, after that, we were all excited for her and proud of her for that.”
The next batter, Alyssa Walker, singled to center on the first pitch.
“The most important hit was the base hit right after the home run,” said Richardson. “We always talk about how home runs are rally killers. It clears the bases. We have strived for the next batter the need to get a hit because it is really important to start a rally after the home run.”
Jordan Donato walked. Walker advanced to third on a passed ball and Donato to second. Hicks singled to left field, scoring Donato. Walker scored on the same play on an error.
With one out, Richardson was hit by a pitch and Hicks scored on a ground out by Serenity Shemwell for a three-run lead.
Lincoln Trail got one run back in the seventh and had two runners on with two outs when Lake Land’s winning pitcher, Riley Burney, coaxed a pop fly to the shortstop, Fagot, for the final out of the game.
Lake Land led 2-0 after one inning and 2-1 after two innings when Lincoln Trail scored three runs in the third as Lincoln Trail took advantage of three Lake Land errors. Addie Brazier, a 2022 Casey-Westfield graduate, had the lone hit of the inning, a two-out, two-run single.
LTC added a run in the fourth for a 5-2 advantage.
“When we were losing, I knew we had to keep the dugout positive,” said Hicks. “I feel like when people get down we have to stay up. I just told them you have to have confidence in the box. We are too good to be playing the way we are. “
Lake Land made seven errors.
As for Hicks’ big two-run single: “I got up there with two on, and I was looking for my pitch,” she said. “I wasn’t going to swing at anything I didn’t like. I knew the shortstop had been having kind of a rocky game and so I thought, ‘I am going to aim for the left side and get my people in’ and it worked out to my advantage.”
Lake Land improved to 23-3 for first place in the GRAC.
Richardson catches an all-freshmen pitching staff.
“I worked in the off season on little things and continue to improve my mental game as well,” said Richardson, who leads the team in batting (.399) and home runs (14). “Knowing two-strike pitches and secondary outs and those types of things. We have an all freshman pitching staff this year and, as a sophomore catcher, I have to handle the reins here. I am learning how to handle them and what they like and don’t like. I try and make them better and give them confidence. Sometimes as a freshman, you can be a little anxious out there by yourself and feel lonely. I try and make them feel I have been there too. I love the challenge of being a sophomore catcher. I am going to miss the freshmen pitchers a lot when I move on after this year.”
Serenity Shemwell led Lake Land in the DH by going 3-for-6 with a double, a stolen base and 4 RBIs.
Lake Land’s last home regular season loss was April 22, 2021 in a 9-2 loss at Wabash Valley. The Lakers have won 37 consecutive regular season contests.
“Last year, we were undefeated at home and this year we are not losing at home my sophomore year,” said Hicks.”We have a lot of home games left and this keeps everything rolling (Lake Land has 12 games left in the regular season, including eight at home.
“We are playing pretty good,” said Nelson. “We have some stuff to work on. We are a pretty good team but we are not the team we have been in the past. So, we have to play everything right. Every practice there is something we have to work on like today we had seven errors. I didn’t break up the field because I thought we would be a better fielding team, so I left it hard and it turned out we were the ones that could not field the ball. I wish I would have broken it up, but it all worked out.”
The only bad news is that first baseman Mackayla Denny of Perth Australia was injured and in a sling after the game. She tried to tag out a runner going to first and the throw was up the line causing a collision. Bryanna French took over for her at first.
“To sweep anybody in the GRAC is always good,” said Nelson. “I don’t care if it’s them or Wabash Valley. It is always good to sweep somebody. All we are carrying about is trying to win every game we can win and get ourselves seeded right for the regional tournament. “
Lincoln Trail 001 100 0–2-4-4
Lake Land 100 221 x –6-7-4
Winning pitcher: Tinley Beecham 7 innings, 4 hits, 2 runs, 1 earned, 5 strikeouts, 0 walks
LAKE LAND: Ashlyn Hicks 2 runs; Deanna Reed 1-for-3, double, run, RBI; Eva Richardson 1-for-4, double, RBI; Serenity Shemwell 1-for-2, double, RBI; Jordan Donato run; Klair Fagot 1-for-3, run; Bryanna French 2-for-3, RBI; Kyai Haws run; Mackayla Denney, sacrifice, RBI; Zoie Armstrong 1-for-1, double, RBI
Lincoln Trail 013 100 1–6-5-1
Lake Land 200 204 x–8-8-7
Winning pitcher: Riley Burney 4 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 0 earned, 1 strikeout, 1 walk; Starter: French 3 innings, 2 hits, 5 runs, 1 earned, 4 strikeouts, 2 walks
LAKE LAND: Hicks 1-for-2, 3 runs, 2 RBIs; Reed 2-for-3, stolen base, run, 2 RBIs; Richardson 1-for-3; Shemwell 1-for-3, 3 RBIs; Fagot 1-for-3, home run, run, RBI; Alyssa Walker 1-for-3, run; Donato 1-for-3, triple, 2 runs