Kemper Academy's Abby Rose flips the ball to first for the out.

Photo by Rocky Higginbotham
Kemper Academy's Abby Rose flips the ball to first for the out. Photo by Rocky Higginbotham

Kemper County Messenger

It took Kemper Academy's softball team all of 9 hours to match its win total from the entire 2016 season.

The Lady Rams opened their 2017 fast-pitch campaign last Saturday at the Oak Hill Tournament in West Point, splitting four contests and coming away with third place in the double-elimination event.

Kemper, which finished 2-9 last year, opened last Saturday with a 10-0 loss to eventual tournament champion Newton County Academy.

But the Lady Rams rebounded with a 10-5 win over district rival Hebron Christian School. Then, Kemper hammered Class AAA Starkville Academy 21-6 to reach the losers' bracket final before falling to host Oak Hill, 12-4.

"It was a long day in the heat but we're proud of the way our girls played, especially after they lost that first one," Kemper coach Robert Luke said of his squad, which started play at 10 a.m., and finished about 11 hours later.

Kemper, 2-2, was to host Newton County Academy Tuesday and go to Starkville Academy Wednesday of this week. Next week, the Lady Rams host Oak Hill on Wednesday (Aug. 9) in their last contest before school starts the week of Aug. 14.

In last Saturday's opener, Kemper fell behind 7-0 in the first inning against NCA — which went unbeaten in winning the tournament.

KA managed just two baserunners in the entire contest. Kristen Cook had a first-inning single and Libba Dudley a fourth-inning single, but neither made it farther than first base against NCA pitcher Taylor Evans, a transfer from MHSAA Class 2A state semifinalist Lake. Evans struck out eight in the five-inning shutout.

After a break of about 2 hours, Kemper rebounded nicely with a solid win over Hebron.

The Lady Rams scored three times in the first inning and four times in the second to grab a 7-0 lead.

Alyssa Gully had two hits and two runs scored to pace Kemper's nine-hit attack, while Dudley had a double two runs and three RBIs, Sara Gaylord a double, a run and two RBIs and Allie Redmond a double and an RBI.

Cook, Jena Bobo and Anna Morgan King all singled and scored; Avery Luke had a hit and an RBI; and Karley Clark scored once.

Cook was the winning pitcher, throwing six innings and giving up just two earned runs. She struck out seven.

In their third contest of the day, the Lady Rams grabbed a 6-4 lead over Starkville Academy in the first inning -- then erupted for 11 runs in the top of the second to grab a commanding 17-4 lead.

Redmond was 3-for-3 with five RBIs and a run scored and Bobo was 3-for-4 with a double, two runs and three RBIs for Kemper -- which had 10 hits and took advantage of six SA errors.

Cook had a single, double and four runs scored and Dudley also scored four times. Gaylord had one hit, three runs and an RBI and Clark scored three times and had an RBI. Luke added an RBI and King had a run and an RBI.

Cook and Gaylord combined on a three-inning, no-hitter. Starkville managed six runs, but did so by taking advantage of five KA errors, five walks and three hit batsmen.

It was the defense which let down the Lady Rams after nightfall, as well, as they dropped a 12-4 decision to host Oak Hill.

The host Lady Raiders grabbed a 3-0 lead after one inning, then erupted for six runs in the third to build a 9-1 advantage.

Cook (2-2) took the loss despite giving up just one earned run. She fanned four.

Kemper had just three base hits in its final game, with Gully, Dudley and King all getting singles. Cook, Dudley and Luke had RBIs, while Bobo, Clark, Luke and King all scored.