Elmore County could not have asked for a better start to its tournament in Reeltown on Friday. After seeing Alyssa Beam retire the first three batters she faced, the Panthers’ offense went to work.
The first six batters reached base for Elmore County in the first frame while Madison Britt, Eleanor Watts and CJ Thornton all recorded at least one RBI. The Panthers (7-7) scored six runs in the inning and did not need any more as they eased to a 6-2 win over Reeltown.
“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.”
Reeltown (5-12) was forced to make a pitching change in the first inning but it ended up being too late. Kenzie Hornsby limited the damage for the Rebels and pitched the final four innings without allowing a run.
“She did a great job in there for us,” Reeltown coach Kelli 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.”
Elmore County loaded the bases once and left six runners on base but did not have any more big threats to add to its lead. The Panthers got everything else they needed from the pitching circle and the defense.
Alyssa Beam started in the circle and got her second win of the season after allowing just four hits and one run across four innings. Maci Curlee pitched the final two innings of the victory, striking out two and allowing two hits.
“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.”
The Panthers needed some big plays from their defense to limit the Rebels to just two runs. After having five fielding errors against Reeltown last Tuesday, Elmore County stepped up behind Beam.
“We look at our ERAs to figure out what we need to score to win,” Moncrief said. “But defensively, we’re a lot better than we were last year. Getting Ebone (Pierson) back at shortstop has been a great addition defensively and it helps everyone else relax.”
The Panthers did not make a fielding error throughout their three games at the tournament. And while the defense was doing its job, the offense was putting on a show.
After its win over Reeltown, Elmore County saw its bats come back to life in a 9-1 victory over Randolph County. Britt led the team with three hits, including a three-run homer and a two-run double.
Britt added two more hits in the team’s final game Saturday but it was not enough to hold off a late rally from Woodland. Madelyn Becker had three hits for the Panthers, including her second home run of the season, but Elmore County fell 5-4 on a walk-off double.
Reeltown split its final two games of the tournament as well but Hilyer said the tournament experience is important.
“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.”