Italy — The Lady Gladiators, head coached by Jennifer Reeves, divided the 13 innings between senior pitcher, Megan Richards, and freshman pitcher, Jaclynn Lewis, on their way to a dramatic 7-6 three-hour win over the Clifton Lady Cubs on Tuesday. Surprisingly, in a game of such length, Richards only compiled three strikeouts and Lewis just two, a testament to the defensive effort Italy’s leaders on the mound had backing them up during the action packed thriller. In fact, both offenses relentlessly put the ball into play but time-after-time defenders would find a way to make a catch.
In an all out district battle, that sent a Lady Cub outfielder crashing face-first into the left field foul line fence and two Lady Gladiators for medical treatment following the game (Katie Byers with facial swelling after taking a softball to the left cheek and Bailey Eubank with jammed fingers upon sliding into third), both teams were forced to earn any accomplishment. Byers and Eubanks remained in the game, however, and continued to contribute to Italy’s cause until the job was done.
Notable defensive efforts were turned in by M. Richards who, with a Clifton runner on first base while pitching to a Lady Cub bunter in the second-inning, ran and dove under the arcing bunt just a few feet from home plate. Richards then rose to her cleats and threw to first for the double play, catching the runner too far from the bag.
Westbrook, at second base for Italy, fielded back-to back grounders and delivered underhand tosses to Lewis for the last two outs in the top half of the third inning. Westbrook and Lewis repeated the effort later in the top of the 8th for the first pair of outs followed by Bumpus who secured a pop-up behind third base, for the third out, helping to keep the game tied 5-5.
Byers received her injury when in the top of the ninth, with a Lady Cub at first, Bumpus fielded a grounder and fired to Westbrook covering first for an out. Westbrook, then passed back to Bumpus who forced the Lady Cub outside the baseline to avoid the tag for an automatic double-play. Bumpus, trying to ensure the call would go her team’s way, tossed the ball back to Byers who was attempting to cover third. While being distracted by the Lady Cub runner, the ball ricocheted off the left cheek of Byers but the play had been ruled dead by that point.
Clifton’s pitching staff managed just 5 strikeouts themselves, as the Lady Gladiator hitters matched the Lady Cubs’ attack from the batter’s box. Alyssa Richards had 3 hits, Bailey Eubank had 3 hits, Bailey Bumpus had 2 hits, Jaclynn Lewis had 1 hit, Madison Washington had 1 hit and Paige Westbrook had 2 hits with one being an RBI double to knot the contest 6-6 in the bottom of the eleventh-inning by scoring Alyssa Richards from second base.
After an RBI double by Clifton to give the Lady Cubs a 6-5 advantage in the top of the 10th, Bumpus gets walked and then advances to second off a sacrifice bunt from Lewis. Alyssa Richards then lofted a double to the base of the right field fence to score Bumpus and tie the game once more, 6-6, in the bottom of the inning.
In the top of the twelfth, Washington, Italy’s freshman center-fielder, made a hustling catch and fall to come up with the ball which she raised in triumph while Lady Gladiator fans bellowed with enthusiasm. The Cubs retaliated with another high fly ball to center that cleared the mitt of Washington who was, once again, on the run trying to make a play.
The resulting double put pressure on Lewis who had replaced, Megan Richards, on the mound back in the sixth-inning. With a runner in scoring position, two outs and, Kelsey Nelson, with a catchers mask on behind Italy’s dugout warming the pitching arm of Megan Richards, who was preparing to return to the hill, Lewis came thru and delivered a strike three for the third out.
In the bottom of the twelfth-inning, Bailey Bumpus singles but is thrown out on a force at second base after Lewis hits a single. Lewis, with Alyssa Richards up to bat and thinking the pitch was getting past the Lady Cub catcher, started for second. The ball stayed in front of the catcher, unfortunately, and Lewis hesitated while rethinking her decision. Committed to steal, Lewis went for it but was tagged out while sliding into the second base bag, 2 outs.
In a show of both respect and fear, Clifton intentionally walks Alyssa Richards. Washington singles to put Italy runners at first and third. Westbrook grounds out and the game remains tied 6-6 as it moves into the top of the thirteenth.
With Coach Reeves electing to stick with Lewis, Byers, covering third base with her swollen cheek, accounts for the first two outs. The first out comes when Byers fields a grounder and and guns the runner down on a throw to Megan Richards at first base. The second out occurs when Byers hauled in a Lady Cub pop-up. Out number three is a grounder hit to Megan Richards.
With the game now in the bottom of the thirteenth-inning and still tied 6-6 between Italy and Clifton, senior right fielder Alma Suaste singles to put the scoring run on first. Eubank bunts and beats the throw to first, two runners on for Italy. Then striding to the plate is, Megan Richards, who confidently knocks in the game’s deciding run with a liner to right center field. The veteran scores Suaste from second to give the Lady Gladiators their 5th district win of the season, 7-6 over Clifton, and improving their overall district record to 5-1.
With matted hair across their faces, smeared eye black and sand stained uniforms, the “battle-scarred” Lady Gladiators celebrated their victory in the same manner in which they had conquered the Lady Cubs…as a team. Whether it was a high-five, or a hard pitch, a confident grip on the bat or an outstretched catch, every Lady Gladiator had a hand in this one.
Along with Megan Richards and her game winning RBI, Lewis accounted for two RBIs and Alyssa Richards had one RBI. Bumpus and Lewis both hit doubles and Alyssa Richards hit two doubles. Alyssa Richards had a .750 batting average, Eubank hit .600 and Bumpus had .500 batting average to lead Italy.
Game stats provided by: Kelly Lewis
On Loyd Davidson Memorial Night at Italy’s Loyd Davidson field, Italy High School 1990 graduate, Mark Buchanan, and father of Justin Buchanan, who is a senior pitcher for Italy this season, tossed the game’s opening pitch to honor the memory of Mr. Davidson. Mr. Davidson was an assistant baseball coach of Mark’s for four years. Mark stated as he exited the field before the start of the game, “I’ll tell you one thing, Loyd would be fired up about right now.”
The Italy Gladiators entered their game against Clifton with a 2-2 district record but soon realized district win number three would not come easy. With Justin Buchanan on the mound for the Gladiators, Clifton opened with a single. Catcher Ross Stiles tracked a pop-up down the first base line to get the first out.
Moments later, Clifton had runners at first and third when a Cub blooper into shallow left, fielded on the run by sophomore Justin Wood who quickly threw to Caden Jacinto at short, put Clifton up 1-0. A grounder to Kyle Jackson at third base secured the second out after the senior third baseman threw to his junior first baseman, Cole Hopkins. After collecting the third out, Italy scurried into the dugout to grab their bats and try to even the score.
Italy struggles to mount a response after Wood grounds out and the next two Italy batters strikeout. In the top of the second-inning, Italy junior, Chase Hamilton, catches a Cub fly ball hit to centerfield for the first out. A grounder hit to second base is fielded by junior, Reid Jacinto who throws to Hopkins at first for the second out.
Italy keeps Clifton from increasing their lead and gets the third out. The game moves into the bottom of the inning where Clifton’s pitcher stymies Italy’s hit staff with three-consecutive strikeouts. The Cubs pour it on in the top of the third-inning by scoring two more runs to extend their lead 3-0. The score holds until game’s end. The Gladiators are now 2-3 in district play after their 3-0 loss to the reigning district champions.
The JV Gladiators:
The Italy JV Gladiators drop to a 3-2 district record after hard-fought 6-2 loss to the visiting Clifton JV Cubs on Tuesday. Italy’s Marvin Cox, Cody Boyd and Tyler Anderson each pitched valiantly during the contest but the sizable Clifton batters managed to power their way to a win.
Other notable efforts were turned in by shortstop Chace McGinnins, Anderson in left field, Kyle Fortenberry, Boyd who kept runners honest at first base, second baseman, Zain Byers, who covered ground to get to a high fly ball near the mound and Hank Seabolt who scored Italy’s second run of the game during a late rally.