The Reeltown softball team outscored Elmore County across the final five innings of its opening game at the Reeltown Invitational on Friday. However, the Rebels (5-12) allowed six runs in the first inning and could not erase the deficit before falling to the Panthers 6-2.
“If a team comes out and starts hitting hard, you have to come back and start hitting hard,” Reeltown coach Kelli Hilyer said. “You have to react to it. We got some things going but they made some big plays.”
The first five batters reached base for Elmore County in the first frame, forcing Hilyer to make an early pitching change. Madison Britt, Eleanor Watts and CJ Thornton all had at least one RBI in the first inning for the Panthers.
“We’ve been trying to focus on that this year,” ECHS coach Kim Moncrief said. “We want to explode out of the gates and not wait until later in the game. We want to jump on them at the beginning if we can. Starting out like that helps our mentality.”
Kenzie Hornsby limited the damage for Reeltown in the first, allowing just one run and retiring three of the four batters she faced. Hornsby stayed in the circle for the rest of the game and held the Panthers scoreless across the final four innings.
“She did a great job in there for us,” Hilyer said. “I talked to our pitching staff and told them now is the time to grow and build. She only pitched a couple of innings of varsity last year. So, this is when you get experience so you can be ready for the end of the season when it matters the most.”
Chloe Davidson, who extended her hitting streak to seven games, got Reeltown on the board with an RBI single in the top of the fourth inning. Davidson tripled to lead off the sixth inning and scored the second run of the game for the Rebels on a groundout by Kenzie Gibson.
Alyssa Beam got the victory for Elmore County after pitching four innings and allowing just four hits and one run. Maci Curlee pitched the final two innings for the Panthers in the win.
“Both of them have been very strong as starters and closers this year,” Moncrief said. “We tend to go to Maci more as a starter but we want her to know what it’s like to close out some of these games too. Alyssa is very consistent and we can depend on her to throw and stay calm as a starter.”
Elmore County (7-7) split its final two games at the tournament. Madison Britt drove in six runs during the Panthers’ 9-1 win against Randolph County before the team fell to a walk-off double in the final game against Woodland.
After losing its opener, Reeltown needed to bounce back before playing two games on Saturday. The Rebels jumped out to a 5-1 lead against Woodland but four fielding errors helped erase that lead as Reeltown fell 7-5 in five innings.
Bella Studdard helped the Rebels grab a consolation victory in the last game of the day. She had two doubles and was one of four players to record two RBIs in a 12-2 win over Randolph County.
After making a deep run in last year’s state tournament, the Rebels know the importance of learning how to play in a tournament atmosphere. This was the third in-season tournament Reeltown has participated in and Hilyer hopes it is helping prepare her team for the postseason.
“Area play and postseason is all tournament play,” Hilyer said. “We have to get our reps in and try to grow every game. In the end, that’s where you have to put it all into action.”