Jacksonville Daily Progress
Lady Eagle head softball coach Ashley Renner candidly stated that she was a bit disappointed when she learned that her team would not be facing Henderson pitching ace and Texas signee, Tiara Davis, in Monday's warm-up game between the No. 5-ranked Lady Lions and Rusk, who is Class 3A's No. 4-ranked team.
In this case, there was an advantage to a disadvantage as the Lady Eagles were forced to face a pitcher, Kami McCaw, that they had never seen before and one who had a different pitching style than Davis.
In the end everything worked out fine for Rusk, as the Lady Eagles (23-2) were able to generate a 1-0 win over Henderson (23-8), the District 16-3A champion.
“We would have liked our girls to have had the chance to face Tiara Davis, certainly,” Renner said. “But it was good and a challenge for us to face a another quality pitcher that we were unfamiliar with.
“We you go into the playoffs you have to be ready for anything and everything that an opponent will throw at you.”
McCaw, a junior, got the rare start as the Henderson coaching staff decided that it would be in Davis' best interest to rest her arm on Monday, with another warm-up game against a top 10 team scheduled for Friday and the state playoffs looming next week.
The Lady Eagles managed to get just two hits off of McCaw, with the Lady Eagles' run being scored off an unearned run in the home half of the third inning.
That's when Gabby Willis led off with a base on balls and immediately used her speed to swipe second base and move into scoring position.
An infield error on the Lady Lions moved Willis to third.
With one out, Rusk's Sydney Littlejohn lifted a pitch deep into center field for a sacrifice fly that easily plated Willis from third for what turned out to be the game's only run.
Kelsey Blankinship had Rusk's other hit, a lead off single that came in the second segment.
Bailee Gates dropped a perfect sacrifice bunt down the third base line to move Blankinship to second.
From there she advanced to third on a wild pitch that came with one out.
McCaw recovered and retired the next two Lady Eagles that came to the plate to end Rusk's other scoring threat.
Blankinship also threw out a would be Henderson base runner who was caught too far off at first base in the second inning.
Littlejohn gave up four hits in earning the shutout win in the circle for Rusk.
She struck out eight and did not issue a single walk. Only one Henderson base runner made it as far as third base.
The Lady Eagles have another warm-up game scheduled for Friday when Rusk is scheduled to battle Celina at 6 p.m. at Kemp High School.