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A confident and relaxed Myrtle squad took the field Thursday and downed their rival and defending 1A state champion as a result.
Myrtle entered the 2009 playoffs as the two seed after falling to West Union last week, while the Lady 'Noles were in familiar territory as their divisional winners. Smithville is also the hump the Lady Hawks could not get over, falling to them the last two years in the playoffs, but none of that mattered with Myrtle sweeping the series 11-10 and 7-4.
Myrtle opened game one strong with five run inning, capped by a grand slam by Kandace Butler. Her base clearer was also her first out of the park homerun of her career, and it could not have come at a better time.
Smithville would take the lead, 10-8 in the seventh, but Marshay Cox was the hero at the end with a three-run shot to give Myrtle the win in game one.
“We didn't have to play catch up and we were able to take the lead in that first game. I think that's what made the difference in the series,” Myrtle head coach Robert Gordon said Friday. “They didn't press, and something we're taught our girls throughout the season has been to get on base and let the next girl do her job.”
One factor that has hindered Myrtle throughout the season has been the number of players left on base, something that did not happen against Smithville.
“I don't know how many times we left runners stranded this season,” Gordon said. “We've had problems getting that one big hit, but we were able to do it last night.”
In game two, the Lady Hawks again jumped to the early lead only to watch Smithville take it back. Cox again connected on a three-run shot, along with a home run by Brandi Smith to lift Myrtle to the second round.
“Our defense was not bad at all in the entire series, and we also had excellent play from our pitcher (Emily Cook) throughout,” Gordon said.
It may have been a bittersweet victory defeating their rival, but now Myrtle must put that aside as they are set to host Wheeler Saturday afternoon. Currently the top see from Division 1-1A is undefeated at 15-0 and will be another tough test for the young Myrtle squad.
“What we've heard about them has been nothing but good,” Gordon said. “They're big and strong and play very well on the left side, which is what we faced against Smithville. Hopefully we will find something that works for us in this series.”
Wheeler and Myrtle are set to start at 2 p.m. Also in action on Saturday are West Union at Pine Grove and East Union at Hamilton. All of these games are scheduled for Saturday afternoon, but are subject to change because of the weather.