The Walnut Grove softball team came to town last week like a boxer hurling a first-round uppercut to the chin. They hit the Red Raiders hard and took an opening 3-0 lead.
But Doug Kesler’s players weren’t staggered. And his 20-1 squad responded with its own flurry of punches in the fifth inning, pulling out a 4-3 victory in a key Region 8-AAAA showdown Sept. 12.
“They (Walnut Grove) came ready to play; there’s no doubt their girls were excited and they got a lead on us, but we just kept battling and fighting and found a way to win,” said Kesler. “It was a big win for us, a good win for the kids.”
The win means that if the two teams pair up again in the region tournament — which is a good possibility, considering that both entered Thursday without a region loss — then Madison County will get to host the showdown.
Randee Bettis picked up the win Thursday, going the distance for the Raiders. The standout senior gave up eight hits, three walks and three runs in seven innings, while fanning five. The Warriors scored one run in the second and two in the third inning. But Bettis shut down the visitors the rest of the way.
Kesler said he was proud of Bettis’s effort.
“She didn’t have her best stuff that night and that’s a credit to her perseverance that she kept battling and beat a good team,” said Kesler.
The Raiders collected six hits on the night, with the first key hit by Haley Gordon, a fifth-inning triple that sparked a four-run rally. Kristen Moran bunted home Gordon for the team’s first run. A bunt single by Kayla Argo put runners on first and second, the Ivie Drake singled to load the bases. Bri Carr then drove home Moran and Argo to tie the score at three. Drake then scored on a throwing error.