By Les Dixon / Sports Editor
NORTH LAUREL — Both North Laurel and Somerset struggled at the plate for six innings, but that didn’t mean the two teams weren’t going to provide some fireworks during the game’s final inning of play Thursday.
The Lady Jaguars (20-11-1) took a 1-0 lead into the seventh inning, but the Lady Briar Jumpers responded in a big way by taking advantage of three walks and two fielding miscues, as Amanda Haynes’ three-run homer sealed a 5-2 win for her team.
North Laurel tried to rally in the bottom half of the inning, but could push across only one run, as Megan Baldwin popped up with the bases loaded to end game.
North Laurel assistant coach Rogers Strong was hoping the Lady Jaguars could finish the regular season off strong, but the five-run seventh inning has raised some concerns.
“We just have things we’ve got to work out and we’ve got a short time to work them out,” he said.
North Laurel entered the season with a top five ranking in the state, but has struggled to put anything together the past couple of weeks.
“We’ve got a lot of issues to handle,” Strong added. “If we’re going to be the kind of team to finish strong in the post-season, we’ve got to do those things to take care of business or it’s going to be a short trip.”
Both teams struggled to put anything together until the bottom of the sixth inning when freshman Kailin Yantz reached base on an error and was eventually driven in by Blake Johnson’s single, giving North Laurel a 1-0 cushion.
The Lady Jaguars turned out to be their own worst enemy in the seventh inning, as Baldwin walked three batters to load the bases while Somerset’s first run came after Kirschten Roberts hit into a fielder’s choice to Yantz, which tied the game at one apiece.
The Lady Briar Jumpers’ second run came via a foul ball caught by left fielder Makenzie Mills, but Haynes delivered the big hit in the game, a three-run blast over the center field fence.
“If she charges, going home is OK, but if you lay back you’ve got to take the out,” Strong said of the fielder’s choice hit to Yantz. “They’ve played a lot, but you’ve got to remember they are freshmen. I can’t criticize them because Yantz has played lights-out all year and she gives 100 percent.
“The play in left was a difficult decision to make,” he added. “She’s played center field and right (field) and in the heat of the game and it’s kind of a hard decision not to go get it.”
Strong said Somerset pitcher Lauren Rice kept his team off-balanced by keeping the ball off the plate.
“We didn’t do what we’ve been taught to do,” he said.