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Lady Cougars rally to beat Central, 7-6

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Wise’s circus catch, game-winning RBI lift Campbell County to possibly its first-ever softball win over Lady Bobcats

By Robby O'Daniel

Records are hard things to track down in softball.

So it’s impossible to say with certainty whether last week was the first time in program history that the Lady Cougar softball team defeated Knoxville Central.

Rebecca Mongar is in her eighth year as Lady Cougar head coach, plus she played four years at CCHS, and she doesn’t remember a time the Lady Cougars defeated Central. Longtime LaFollette Press Sports Editor Dwane Wilder can’t recall a time either.

So perhaps it was most likely the first time. It’s hard to say.

Here’s what we do know: the Knoxville Central Lady Bobcats led 6-0 in the bottom of the sixth at Arlis Chapman Field at CCHS, and this (perhaps) historic victory for the Lady Cougars didn’t seem on the verge of happening.

“We had two outs,” Lady Cougar shortstop Carlie Baldwin said. “And we just got up, and, sir, we got up in the dugout big time. And we had a bunch of hits, and we just came back.”

But a thrilling comeback, with six runs in the sixth to tie and then a run in the seventh to win, gave the Lady Cougars the 7-6 victory.

“Listen, it’s like I told the girls: being up and playing up and having your dugout talking is a difference-maker,” Mongar said. “And really that’s what happened. The girls got up. We rallied on two, came back with two outs to tie up the game. And, like I said, again, the difference maker was just they got up and they stayed up. They got behind each other, and that’s when the other team started making mistakes.”

Here’s another amazing stat: Each one of those 7 runs the Lady Cougars scored came with two outs.

“See, that was crazy,” Baldwin said. “Every inning, we would strikeout, strikeout, strikeout, and then that sixth inning came around, and we just got up. And everybody was cheering everybody on. We had two outs, came back. Everyone hit. Some people got walked. Their infield made silly mistakes because our dugout got up so much, so it was just overall a good game.”

The bottom of the sixth started innocuously enough, with Bailey Rutherford attempting to bunt her way on but not in time. One out.

Then Central pitcher Demi Debusk, who was tossing a gem to that point, started to have trouble with the Cougar hitters.

Three straight walks — Alyssa Coker (4 pitches), Taylor Shanks (on a 3-2 count) and Sarah Wildman (5 pitches) — brought the bases loaded.

Then Shae Bolton hit into a force out at home. Two outs. Still 6-0 Central.

Lexy Richardson walked to bring home the first run. Madison “Mad Dog” Myers was hit by a pitch to bring home the second.

Just like that, the tying run was at the plate in the form of Madison Wise. Earlier in the game, she had an amazing circus catch in centerfield.

“We were down coming into that inning, and then a couple of us girls started hitting,” Wise said. “We started getting on the bases, and then we got excited.”

Wise slapped an RBI infield single to keep the rally going, 6-3.

Carlie Baldwin drilled an RBI single to the outfield to cut the lead to 6-4 Central.

Rutherford, who started the inning initially, walked to bring home a run, as did Coker, and the game was suddenly tied.

Though Shanks failed to bring home a go-ahead run, the Lady Cougars had come from the brink of extinction to tie the ballgame.

Central threatened in the top half of the seventh, getting runners on second and third with just one out, but the Lady Bobcats failed to score.

Then in the bottom half, Wildman started the inning by reaching on an error. Shae Bolton singled.

Richardson and Myers were struck out by a Central reliever. Two outs, tie ballgame, one out away from extra innings.

Wise, the short, meek freshman centerfielder in the No. 9 spot, came up to the plate and connected for a game-winning RBI single, and the celebration was on.

“It was exciting,” Wise said. “I was so happy.”

Wise is proud to be on this team starting in center.

“I was proud of myself,” Wise said. “You got to fight for every spot on this team, and I’m glad I got to have a starting spot.”

Shanks went out to the field and picked up Wise off the ground. The team engulfed her in the celebration.

“Madison Wise was the last one that got the hit, so my reaction was to run out there and tackle her,” Baldwin said, laughing.

Baldwin praised Wise’s ability.

“She’s got good potential,” Baldwin said. “She hustles a lot. I mean that catch out there she had was amazing. Overall, she’s got really good potential. She’s working at it, but she’s been a big help to our team this year.”

For a team that has faced such adversity this season — the death of an assistant coach before the year began, the season-ending injury of its starting pitcher in the first game of the season — last Thursday felt like a breakthrough win. It felt like a turning point.