By John Stepp For The Times Tribune
NORTH LAUREL — The North Laurel Lady Jaguars captured their eighth straight 49th District Championship on Monday night with an 8-1 win over the Clay County Lady Tigers.
North Laurel got a strong performance from their starting pitcher, freshman Mikayla Vires, who allowed just one Clay County run while scattering six hits on the night. Vires pitched a complete game for the Lady Jaguars, picking up the win.
“Mikayla pitched well for us. The only run she allowed tonight was actually my fault,” said North Laurel Coach Becky Osborne. “But she pitched well. She hit her spots and played a good ball game all the way around.”
North Laurel wasted no time getting on the board as leadoff batter senior Sidney Herrell reached base and was brought home on a sacrifice fly by freshman Kailin Yantz in the bottom of the first inning. A single by sophomore Kayla Huff in the bottom of the second scored senior Emily Sears to give the Lady Jaguars a 2-0 lead after two innings.
The Lady Jaguars added a third run in the bottom of the third inning when senior Vanessa Smith scored on a sacrifice fly by Vires, helping North Laurel to a 3-0 advantage heading into the fourth.
“We hit the ball real well tonight. Sometimes we don’t understand the short game, and how important it is to have the short game, but we laid down some good bunts when we needed them,” said Osborne. “Kayla Huff had a great game for us. Blake (Johnson) laid down a great bunt for us, too. Overall, we did a really good job of hitting the ball and making them make plays.”
North Laurel rounded out their scoring by adding five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and taking a 8-0 lead. Johnson, Sears, Vires, Huff, and Farris Strong all scored for the Lady Jaguars in the inning. Herrell and Smith each added an RBI in the inning.
Vires' pitching kept the Lady Tigers at bay until the top of the sixth, when Tracey Hubbard scored off an Alex Roberts single. It was the only run in the game for Clay County.
“We hit the ball well, we pitched well, and we played defense well. It was the kind of game we were looking for,” said Osborne. “This was the type of win that we needed. It was good to see us play this well tonight.”
With the win the Lady Jaguars advance to the 13th Region Tournament next week, where they are the six-time defending champs.
“Hopefully this is a confidence booster for us,” said Osborne. “I hope they realize that it only takes one game to turn things around and that this is the game that we needed to turn it around.”