Bailey Walker had a feeling the final play was coming to her, and after a couple of tense moments, she made it to seal another victory for the Ballard High School softball team.
With the tying run on third base, Walker made a running catch toward the right-field fence to end the Lady Bruins’ 3-2, 10-inning win at Seventh Region rival Eastern on Wednesday night.
“I was just doing like we practice and went straight back on the ball,” said Walker, a senior who has signed with North Alabama. “It was a little iffy when I went back, but I ended up catching it. It made me proud and made my team proud.”
Ballard (15-5), No. 8 in the state coaches’ Top 25, ran its winning streak to five behind a strong performance from junior right-hander Jessica Adell (12-5) who posted 18 strikeouts while allowing just two hits.
Adell, who has committed to Tennessee as a center fielder, retired the final 15 batters.
“That kid is phenomenal,” Ballard coach Alan Jones said. “She just keeps us in the game. With her on the mound we can win every game.”
No. 18 Eastern (14-1) suffered its first loss of the season while playing its first Jefferson County opponent. Senior pitcher Casey Smith (13-1), who has signed with Kentucky Wesleyan, allowed six hits while striking out seven.
“We just couldn’t get anything to work, and Adell pitched good,” Eastern coach Dean Taylor said. “We were a little too amped up and weren’t relaxed the first couple of innings.”
With the score tied at 2, the game went to the international tiebreaker in the 10th inning, with both teams starting their at-bats with a runner at second base.
In the top of the 10th, Ballard’s Breon Thomas sacrificed pinch-runner Jessi Welch to third base. After Adell struck out, Welch scored on a passed ball for a 3-2 lead.
In the bottom half, Eastern’s Danielle Mallory sacrificed Rachel Kelley to third base to start the inning. Lindsey Neutz struck out, and Taylor sent freshman Ashley Kelley to pinch hit.
Kelley sent a shot to right field that appeared to be headed to the fence, but Walker turned to her right, then to her left to make the running catch that ended the game.
Jones said it was a good victory for a young Ballard team that has just two seniors and two juniors on its roster.
“Two weeks ago we would have lost this game,” he said. “There was a lot of pressure on them, and they need to play in pressure because come districts and regionals there’s going to be a lot of pressure.”
Mac Henderson’s RBI single gave Ballard a 1-0 lead in the second inning, and she later scored on a squeeze bunt by Alexis Smith for a 2-0 edge.
Eastern took advantage of three Ballard errors in the fourth inning to tie it, getting a two-run single from Neutz.
Eastern squandered a big chance to take the lead in the sixth after a leadoff triple by Paige Alford. Adell got out of the jam with a popout, a strikeout and a groundout.
“If we could have gotten that run in, I think we would have won the game,” Taylor said.
Ballard…020 000 000 1 – 3 6 3
Eastern…000 200 000 0 – 2 2 2
WP – Adell (12-5). LP – Smith (13-1). 3B – Alford (E). 2B – Parker (B), Hull (B) 2, Kearschner (B).