SUMRALL – The Sumrall Lady Bobcats desperately needed a win Monday night against Greene County. Without a win, a playoff berth would have been highly unlikely.
Trailing by three runs in the sixth inning, Sumrall scored five runs in the bottom half of the inning to defeat the Lady Wildcats 9-7 in a crucial region contest. Sumrall is now 2-4 and it sits a game and a half back from the third and final playoff spot with four region games to go.
“We’ve been on the other side of it so many times,” Sumrall coach Dodie Robertson said. “We just needed tonight. We needed to be on top for once because we’ve lost so many close ones.”
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Despite entering Monday with a 1-4 record, the Lady Bobcats have been competitive against region foes. They lost back-to-back extra-inning games to Greene County and Purvis last month, and hung tough with top-ranked Lawrence County and Poplarville. Sumrall’s only win came against lowly Forrest County AHS, and it’ll play the Lady Aggies, Poplarville, Lawrence County and Purvis one time each before it’s all said and done.
“This game was just one of many that we have got to win,” Robertson said. “We knew we have to at least split with everybody at this point in order to give ourselves a chance. Poplarville (4-3), Greene County (2-4) and us are fighting for that third spot, so these games are critical.”
On Monday, Sumrall grabbed a quick 4-1 lead before a few questionable calls by the umpires fired up the Sumrall coaches. With two on and one out for Greene County in the fourth, Kayla Mazzocchi smacked a pitch down the first base line that Robertson thought was foul. The home plate umpire ruled it fair and the Lady Wildcats cut Sumrall’s lead to 4-3.
Greene County tied the game 4-4 during the next at-bat.
When it looked like Sumrall would regain the lead in the bottom of the fourth, another call by the umpires got the Sumrall coaches riled up. With two on and one out, Taylor Green sent a grounder to second, but the Greene County second baseman collided with the Sumrall base runner, and the infield umpire ruled it runner’s interference.
Robertson and her assistant coaches argued the Greene County second baseman had an opportunity to field the ball before the collision, but the umpire saw it differently.
“The rule is, once the infielder has a chance at the ball then it’s no longer interference by the runner,” Robertson said. “That ball went all up her arm, like, she had a chance at it and she missed it. Then she just barreled our girl over. She should have been safe and that run should have scored. There was no doubt about that.”
Greene County escaped the jam moments later to keep it a 4-4 game.
Riding the momentum, Greene County pushed across three more runs in the top of the fifth while the Lady Bobcats went down quietly in the bottom half.
When it looked like the Lady Wildcats would add to their lead in the sixth inning, seventh-grader Ashlyn Burkhalter entered the game to pitch and made quick work of the Greene County hitters.
“She was huge, and she’s a seventh grader throwing against 18-year-olds,” Robertson said. “She has been so good for us. She has been excellent all year for us; not just tonight.”
Burkhalter’s momentum in the circle translated to the offense, too, because Sumrall scored five runs on two hits, four walks and a Greene County error to retake the lead. Brandi Bond picked up the first RBI on a double, then a Greene County fielder misplayed Autumn Burkhalter’s shot to left field to score another run. Bethany Prine walked with bases loaded to tie the game at 7, and Londyn Robertson delivered the big blow with a two-RBI double to right field to give the Lady Bobcats a 9-7 advantage.
“We’ve been having trouble stringing hits together,” Dodie Robertson said. “We’ve been leaving people on base and we’ve been coming up to the top of our lineup and not getting it done.
“Just to be as disciplined as we were at the plate (Monday), because (the Greene County pitcher) wasn’t throwing a lot of strikes. We’ve had trouble deciding which pitch to hit, so I was proud of them tonight for picking good pitches to go after.”
Ashlyn Burkhalter got two quick outs in the top of the seventh, but she did allow a hit and a walk before getting the game-ending popup.