Lady Gladiators in full stride after 2-0 start in district

Image: The Lady Gladiators interlock before their 14-3 conquest over Axtell.

The Lady Gladiators interlock before their 14-3 conquest over Axtell. (Barry Byers)

Italy — The Lady Gladiators start their 2012 campaign 2-0 in district play after striding past the Axtell Lady Longhorns 14-3 in just 5 innings of play. Senior Megan Richards was on the mound for Lady Gladiator head coach, Jennifer Reeves, and recorded her first strikeout in the top of the first-inning to leave two Axtell runners stranded and allow her teammates to exchange mitts for hits in the bottom half of the inning.

With Megan Richards on, Jaclynn Lewis belts an RBI double to put Italy up 1-0. With Bailey Bumpus on, Alyssa Richards quiets the Axtell dugout with a fly ball that drops at the base of the right field fence. The 2 run RBI gives the Lady Gladiators a 3-0 lead. Paige Westbrook walks but Axtell gets a strikeout to escape the opening inning.

In the top of the second, with Alyssa Richards playing catcher, big sister Megan Richards remains on the hill and quickly hits her stride recording her second strikeout of the game for the first out. The smiling senior rockets three more strikes for out number two. With the next pitch seeming to have more zip than the last, Megan Richards fires her seventh strike in a row for out number three. Italy’s grenade launcher throws 9-out-of-11 pitches for strikes in the top of the second.

Italy grabs their bats once again and Alma Suaste gets on base with a single to centerfield. Tara Wallis joins Suaste after being walked by Axtell’s hurler. The runners rotate to second and third during Megan Richards’ at bat who loads the bases after being walked, as well. With Bumpus at the plate with a 2-and-2 count, Suaste steals home and slides away from the tag to increase Italy’s lead 4-0, runners now at second and third.

Bumpus sits down after a strike three call. Lewis grounds out but records an RBI scoring Wallis from third base, 5-0 Italy leads with Megan Richards plotting her chance to reach home from third. Alyssa Richards walks to first, and with two on for Italy, Madison Washington doubles past Axtell’s shortstop for an RBI double with Alyssa Richards sliding to beat the throw to third. Megan Richards crosses home plate to make the game 6-0 in favor of Italy.

Westbrook steps into the batter’s box and blasts a 2 run double into centerfield with Alyssa Richards and Washington stomping on home plate, 8-0 Italy. Katie Byers grounds into a force out with Westbrook trying to sprint to second base. Axtell gets the third out but not before Italy tallies 5 runs in the bottom half of the second-inning.

Axtell tries to get rolling in the top of the third-inning but a grounder to the mound is fielded by Megan Richards who throws to Lewis at first base for out number one. Axtell singles via a blooper that drops just inside the right field foul line. Megan Richards strikes out the next Lady Longhorn hitter for out number two. The following Axtell batter suffers the same fate after a fastball on the outside corner does her in for the third out, Italy maintains their 8-0 advantage.

With one out in the bottom of the third, Wallis singles to get on base. Megan Richards follows with a lofting double to move Wallis to third base. Bumpus is walked loading the bases. Lewis singles scoring Wallis and Megan Richards, however, Bumpus is caught in a run down between second and third for out number two. Alyssa Richards joins Lewis to give Italy runners at first and second base. Washington delivers a 2 run RBI triple into the right field gap to push the Lady Gladiators further in front, 12-0. Westbrook singles again to score Washington, 13-0 Italy conquering. Byers connects for an RBI double scoring Westbrook as Italy takes a commanding 14-0 advantage. Suaste grounds out to end the third but only after a 6 run inning by the Lady Gladiators.

Axtell fires back in the top of the fourth and uses a pair of hits to put runners at second and third base. Axtell hits another grounder to the mound with Megan Richards trying to hold the runner at third base before throwing to first. Realizing she had Axtell’s runner hesitating between third and home, the savvy pitcher opted for the rundown and makes a beeline toward the runner. With Italy’s infielders rushing in to have their pitchers back, and several back-and-forth tosses later, Bumpus throws home to her pitcher and Megan Richards tags the sliding Lady Longhorn for out number one, Italy protects their 14-0 edge.

Moments later, Axtell loads the bases with two outs against them. Then a shallow fly ball drops inside the left field foul line and continues to progress into the far corner with Byers giving chase. Byers retrieves the runaway rascal and darts a throws to Westbrook at the cutoff, holding the batter to a 3 run RBI double. The Lady Longhorns finally have something to cheer about as the score changes 14-3 with Italy still in charge.

A grounder to Bumpus at short, who throws to Lewis at first for out number three, gets their pitcher out of her toughest half-inning of the game.

Italy returns to offense in the bottom of the fourth and shows no fear connecting on four Axtell pitches. Unfortunately, however, Wallis grounds out followed by Washington who flies out to right field for out number two. Bumpus records a double but is left stranded when Lewis flies out to right field, as well, for the third out.

Axtell tries to build on their momentum and extend the game in the top of the fifth but Megan Richards and her teammates decide enough is enough and record the final three outs to win by the run rule, 14-3. Megan Richards recorded 7 strikeouts in the contest.

Italy vs. Dawson:
On Tuesday, Reeves called on Freshman pitcher Jaclynn Lewis to lead the Lady Gladiator attack in a non-district win over the Dawson Lady Bulldogs. The talented freshman pitched 5 innings before Megan Richards stepped to the mound for the final 2 innings to close out Italy’s 6-0 victory. Thus far, the Lady Gladiators have outscored their district opponents 27-3 in two games and 33-3 in their last three games combined.

Italy! Italy! Italy!