Volunteer takes control of Big 7 softball race

Jeff Birchfield • Apr 14, 2014 at 9:11 PM

Morgan Marshall and the Volunteer Lady Falcons have taken control of the Big Seven Conference softball race.

Marshall, the sophomore pitcher who is already committed to Belmont, struck out nine batters and gave up just three hits to lead the Lady Falcons to a 2-1 victory over five-time defending league champion Daniel Boone on Monday night.

Volunteer improved to 21-5 overall and 8-0 in the conference, while the homestanding Lady ’Blazers fell to 19-9 and 6-2 in league play. Two-thirds of the way through the conference schedule, the Lady Falcons hold a two-game lead over nearest rivals Boone and Science Hill. Their win total includes season-sweep of the Lady ’Blazers and a head-to-head victory against the Lady ’Toppers.

“We’re in a pretty good spot, but we still have a lot of games to play,” Volunteer head coach Jackie Strickler said. “This bunch is resilient. They know what we have to do and they just enjoy playing. We’re thrilled with this win, a win over a quality ball club like that, but we’ve got to keep playing and hopefully good things will happen to us.”

On the other side of a pitching duel was Boone’s McKenzi Ferguson, who suffered the loss after giving up two runs (both unearned) in the first inning.

Ferguson, who fell to 14-4 on the season, struck out six and only walked three. She also had two of Boone’s three hits, including a RBI single to score Abbey Harrison in the third inning.

“Morgan is good, but McKenzi is good too,” Lady ’Blazers coach Rick Wagner said. “I thought they both battled. You just didn’t know when someone was going to break it open out there. They had chances early to run us out of here, and we had a couple of chances too. We just didn’t come through, but overall we played pretty good. It was just a good softball game.”

Marshall improved to 13-1 in the circle, and survived a serious threat by the Lady ’Blazers to tie in the fourth inning. Starting from second base, Haley Wagner tried to parlay a Volunteer error into run, but was thrown out at home.

The Lady Falcons committed three errors overall, but they also came through with several big plays on the defensive end, which was the key according to Marshall.

“When you rely on your defense, it’s good to have confidence in them,” she said. “The whole team is awesome and it was a good team effort. It wasn’t just one person or two.

“Every pitch was working today and I was hitting my spots real well. I wasn’t striking everybody out and that’s not my goal. But I was throwing a lot of good pitches and the ones they were hitting, the defense made some good plays on them.”

Cynthia Henley had a two-run single in the first inning for Volunteer’s runs. The Lady Falcons threatened again in the second inning with bases loaded and no outs. They weren’t able to do any more damage thanks in large part to a spectacular running, overhead catch by Boone center fielder Caroline Wilson which denied Kenzie Dixon a sure RBI hit.

“Caroline has been out about a week with a bruise on her leg,” Wagner explained. “Today is the first day, she got out of a boot. That was a big play and Caroline can make plays like that. She gets so excited and is so full of energy.”

Big plays were needed as the Boone defense was often challenged. The Lady Falcons’ lead-off batter got on base in six of the game’s seven innings. Despite that, Sydney Chambers was the only Volunteer player to have multiple hits, going 2-for-3, while Olivia Housewright ended 1-for-2 with a single and a walk.

It was enough, however, thanks to Volunteer’s play in the field.

“We made some great defensive plays,” Strickler said. “That’s what kept us in there. It was just a complete team effort. We made play after play after play, but you have to give Boone credit. They hung in there and they are tough.”

Meredith Good reached base twice for Boone, once on an error in the fifth inning and the next time with a single in the sixth inning. Harrison reached base twice on walks after falling behind on the count both times.

Daniel Boone will return to action today when it hosts Washington County rival David Crockett. Volunteer will try to keep its league record unblemished at Dobyns-Bennett on Thursday.

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