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Cougars first shot is enough

May 01, 2002|BY BILL STERNER / Staff Correspondent

Staff Correspondent

HANCOCK - Jefferson's Lauren Ballenger never needed a job description to figure out what a clean-up hitter is supposed to do. It's just that lately, she hadn't been doing it all that well. Until now.

Ballenger blasted a high fast ball over the deep centerfield fence, breaking open a scoreless game in the sixth inning and starting the Cougars to a 5-4 victory over Hancock on Tuesday.

"I have been in a slump lately," Ballenger said. "This feels so good. If I get a high fastball, I'm going to take it."

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Ballenger's two-run shot came just one inning after she drove a pitch to right center that banged off the fence for a double.

"I definitely thought that first one wasn't getting out. I thought there wasn't enough on it. I was surprised when it hit the fence," Ballenger said. "The second one I thought was too high but it carried pretty well."

Both teams wasted early opportunities to score and each team had the potential first run of the game thrown out at the plate. After Ballenger's blast, the floodgates opened.

"We knew we needed to get that first run," Jefferson coach Leslie Simpson said. "Our team is a great bunch of kids who work hard, but sometimes when things go wrong, we get down on ourselves. I wanted to avoid that today."

The Cougars (11-9) plated three more runs after the Ballenger blast in the sixth. Three singles and a double up the middle by Amy Vickers pushed the lead to 5-0.

Hancock (9-5) rallied in the bottom half. With the bases loaded, Alicia Barnard hit a two-run double to left, and Heather Klinefelter's single knocked in two more. But Thompson regained her composure and ended the inning.

For Hancock, it was the second loss in a row where a big inning late in the game cost them.

"We would like to see some of those big innings start to be big our way," Hancock coach Heather Creek said. "It is something these kids just have to play through."

"We have been playing hard and we have lost a few of these ourselves," Simpson said. "It felt good to be able to get one."

The heavy-hitting Cougars (11-9) were held in check by Hancock freshman Katie Golden through the first five innings. Golden was never really threatened, coaxing a pop up to end the second inning with Jefferson's Jordan Lopez on third, and the Cougars had a runner thrown out at the plate in the fifth.

The Panthers lost an opportunity to take the lead in the third inning, when a pair of Jefferson errors put Ashley Creek on third with one out. But Creek was tagged out by pitcher Heather Thompson when she attempted to come home on a passed ball that was played perfectly by Lopez.

"You have to take risks," Hancock coach Heather Creek said. "Scoring the first run often times makes a big difference in a game like this."

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