The Cougar softball team ran its winning streak to nine games Thursday afternoon as they defeated district rival Butler County by a 5-4 score.
The win streak has propelled the Cougars to a Top-25 ranking for the first time in several years. Grayson County is now 12-3 for the season.
Freshman Kara Decker pitched all seven innings to pick up the win. Decker gave up four runs, all earned, on seven hits, walking no one and striking out six. Decker pitched out of a jam in the seventh inning when the Bears scored a run and had the tying and lead runs on the bases. Butler County’s senior catcher, Amy Rogers drove in all four Bear runs with two singles and a home run.
At the plate, Decker blasted a two-run home run in the first inning to put her team in front to stay. Senior Ashley Milliner also drove in a pair of runs with a two-out single in the third inning.
The Bears got on the board first with a single run in the first inning. With one out, Bear pitcher Cassie Phelps doubled off the glove of Megan England in center field, then scored on a solid single to center by Rogers.
The Cougars answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning to take the lead for good. With one out, senior Kaylan Shull singled up the middle. That brought up Decker, and the sweet-swinging lefty put a charge into the first pitch she saw from Phelps and sent it out of the park in center field to make it 2-1.
The Bears had a runner in scoring position with one out in the second inning, but Decker struck out Emily Rich and got Madison Clark on a come-backer to get out of trouble.
In the top of the third, the Bears put two runners on with one out, but Decker again kept the Bears off the board by getting Natoshia White to fly out and Hannah Peach to ground out.
Grayson County added a pair of runs in the bottom of the third. England led off with a double to the fence in left-center. Shull grounded out to short, but England was able to move up a base. Decker walked and was replaced on the bases by Montana Woosley, who promptly stole second base, putting runners at second and third.
Phelps struck out Alana Mudd for the second out of the inning, but could not get past Milliner. On a 1-1 count, the senior third-baseman ripped a pitch over the head of Rich in center to drive in both base-runners to make it 4-1.
The Cougars scored what turned out to be the winning run in the bottom of the fourth. Designated player Haley Brooks singled leading off the inning, and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Grace White. When Phelps’ throw to first went high and down the line in right, Brooks moved to third and White to second.
England followed with a line drive that was speared at first by Peach for the first out. Shull lofted a high fly to center field, deep enough to plate Brooks to make it 5-1. Decker then grounded out to end the inning.
The Bears made it close by scoring twice after two were out in the fifth inning. With one out, Decker gave up a single to Lynsie Clark, but struck out Phelps for the second out. That brought up Rogers, who hit a 1-0 Decker pitch into the stiff breeze blowing to straight-away center field that cleared the fence for a two-run home run to make it 5-3.
The Bears threatened again in the sixth, putting a runner at second with one out, but Decker got Taylor King on a pop-up to Haley Tucker behind the plate, then struck out Rich to end the inning.
Decker was in a real jam in the seventh inning. Madison Clark beat out an infield hit, then was sacrificed to second by Lynsie Clark. Decker struck out Phelps for the second out, but gave up a line-drive single by Rogers to make it 5-4. White followed with what should have been the final out of the inning, but Mudd dropped the pop fly down the right-field line and the Bears had runners at the corners.
But Decker was up to the task as she got Peach to ground out to Milliner at third to end the game.