Polk wins over East Lincoln in Wednesday’s first round of the state softball tournamentPublished 10:00pm Thursday, May 15, 2014
In the top of the seventh inning, both the Polk County and East Lincoln high school softball teams had a chance to emerge with a win in the first round of the state playoffs on Wednesday.
Polk led, 2-1, but East Lincoln had a runner on third with one out. A Mustang batter lofted a fly to right field. The Wolverine’s Kinsley Jackson calmly did one thing at a time. She caught the ball securely, then unleashed a fine throw to the plate as the Mustang runner tried to score. At the same time, Wolverine catcher Ashley Kropp blocked the plate as well as any catcher in history, took Jackson’s throw, and tagged out the runner.
Like that, Polk won the game, and will play East Rutherford on the road Saturday in round two. The opener was played right at Polk. Those fortunate enough to attend should have been thankful to see their team edge another fine squad.
“We got all we needed,” reflected Wolverine Coach Jeff Wilson after the game. “We made the plays . . . (We’re) very happy with that.” Wilson praised Jackson, winning pitcher Ashley Scruggs and others. Kinsley Jackson came up big,” Wilson remarked. About Scruggs, “She pitched a really good game. She pitched carefully to their good hitters.”
In a game that both teams deserved to win, neither scored until Polk plated its two runs in the home third. Scruggs was matched against the Mustangs’ fire baller Carly Johnson, who also mixed in some excellent change-ups.
After yielding a leadoff loop single in the first, Scruggs retired the next three batters. As the Wolverines returned to the dugout, Wilson advised them to use their basic “Simple M.O.: We change that zero to a one.” Polk was unable to do that in the first, but did show a flash of offensive power, when Ashley Kropp lined a gapper to right center and prudently remained on first. An infield single put Wolverines at first and second, but a strikeout ended the inning.
Polk showed a typical flash of leather in the top of the second. With a runner on first and one out, a Mustang batter lined the ball back near mound. Scruggs snared it, threw and first, and doubled off the East Lincoln runner by a car length.
In the home second, Maddy Foy dropped a fine bunt and was safe at first. Kassidy Reynolds bunted her over to second. With one down, Brandi Cordell grounded out, moving Foy to third, but she was unable to advance. Scruggs pitched out of a two runs on situation in the top of the third. An infield single followed a fine bunt single, putting runners on first and second. But Scruggs got out number two on a fly to Jackson, and snared a pop at the mound for the third out.
In the home third, Polk changed that zero to a one, and the one to a two. Hayley Kropp led off with a single to left. Brittany Jones’s sacrifice bunt got Kropp to second with one down. She moved to third on Scruggs’s ground out. Polk hit pay dirt when Ashley Kropp lined a long double to left, scoring sister Hayley. Kailyn Brown pinch-ran for Kropp, and scored from second on Alexis McCraw’’s single to right. That made it 2-0, Polk never trailed after that, but needed to do many things right to keep it that way against a potentially explosive opponent.
East Lincoln scored in the top of the fifth. A bunt out was followed by a fly to right that dropped safely. Jackson, coming on hard, inadvertently knocked the bouncing ball farther from her, the batter speeding to third.
She scored on an infield grounder and error. With a runner on first, the next batter lined a single to the gap in right center, but McCraw fired the ball back in quickly to keep runners at first and second. After a batter was called out at home, apparently after being hit at home by her own bunt, Jackson made a fine catch ion a fly to right, to retire the side.
Polk’s outfielders continued their heads-up play. In the top of the sixth, Reynolds, playing left, chased down a hard line single. Reynolds’s quick throw kept the runner at first. After a pop to Scruggs made it two down and runners on first and third, Wilson, taking a cue from assistant coach Jerry Hensley, had McCraw come in from middle center field, and station herself not far behind second. Next batter lined one right to her for out number three. That stroke of brilliance kept Polk ahead, 2-1, where it stayed.
“I felt we were poised under pressure,” Wilson said afterward. “We made key plays under pressure.”