EDDYVILLE — Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont High School softball coach Tony Fenton just wanted his team to hang in there. Sooner or later, the big hit would come.
Any why not have it come from his ace pitcher?
Reina Taylor outdueled Albia’s Jena Lawrence, then singled off Lawrence with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to drive in the winning run in a 2-1 South Central Conference victory over the third-ranked (Class 3A) Lady Dees Wednesday.
“We just had to be patient and make Lawrence throw strikes. I thought we really did that well the last couple innings,” Fenton said. “This is a good rivalry. It’s a huge win for us this early in the season.”
Taylor navigated a tough Albia (0-1, 0-1 SCC) lineup, escaped jams and minimized the damage early in the game. Kennedy Schroeder’s RBI single in the first inning was the only blemish for Taylor in a game where both teams’ defenses dictated the game. Each team turned a double play.
“She really kept us off balance tonight and had an effective drop ball. Hitting is all about confidence, and I thought some of our kids might have lost some tonight,” Albia co-coach Darren Hill said. “It’s a tough loss for sure, but the nice thing about softball is you don’t have to wait a whole week for the next game.”
The Rockets (2-0, 1-0) manufactured their winning run. Emalee Davis reached on a soft pop-up on the infield that Albia second baseman Abbey Griffin just missed snagging on a dive, then a wild pitch moved her into scoring position. Lawrence then issued two four-pitch walks to load the bases with two outs.
Taylor wasted little time, as she hit a towering single to the fence in left-center to score Davis for the winning run. Neither team was able to do much in the middle innings after EBF tied in the second on a single by Rylee German.
Taylor, who spent time in the shadow of Randie Richmond in the pitcher’s circle last season, still managed to go 11-1 for the Rockets, and handed defending 1A champion Collins-Maxwell its only loss.
“She’s thrown a lot of big games for us,” Fenton said. “She was a No. 2 for us, but she could have been anyone’s No. 1. She knows this season that it’s on her shoulders.
“She really gathered her control after the first couple innings. It was a tight and consistent strike zone for both pitchers. Reina changed some speeds and locations well.”
Hill’s lineup, which is loaded with hitters who can drive the ball, is still figuring out how to win games that feature station-to-station softball. Once they had runners on in this contest, the Lady Dees struggled to get them in.
“Our hitters know that sometimes the bat is going to be taken our of their hands,” he said. “Still, you have to tip your hat to EBF. Tony is one of the best around here, and they played tough tonight. We just string the hits together when we needed them.”
Albia hosts Mount Pleasant for a doubleheader today while EBF visits Fairfield for two games.
Chad Drury can be reached at email@example.com, and on Twitter @ChadDrury