Jacksonville Daily Progress
Sydney Littlejohn said she doesn't concern herself with amassing strike outs, only hitting spots with her vast assortment of pitches, which include a nasty rise ball.
Littlejohn was spot-on Tuesday night as the Rusk Lady Eagles breezed to a 7-0 win over visiting Groesbeck in the Lady Eagles' District 19-3A opener.
Littlejohn, a tall righty who has signed with the University of Alabama, struck out 18 Lady Goats and allowed just one hit. She fanned the first 12 Groesbeck batters that she faced in the game.
“I don't really think about striking people out,” Littlejohn said. “I just focus on hitting my spots and if I can do that, usually everything will work out fine. (Catcher) Kelsey (Blankinship) called a nice game behind the plate and she really helped me out.”
Littlejohn, who tossed a perfect game in Rusk's 10-0 win over Lindale last week, needed just 81 minutes and 77 pitches (66 of which were strikes) to dispose of Groesbeck (17-7, 1-1 19-3A) who came into the game ranked No. 23 in this week's Class 3A poll — Rusk (14-2, 1-0) is slotted No. 4.
Littlejohn was one of three Lady Eagles who went 2-for-3 at the dish, but she was the only one who lifted the ball over the wall (two-run blast in the fifth inning).
Julianne Bowling, Rusk's lead-off hitter, also went 2-3 and had a two-run double into right in the fifth frame.
Gabby Willis, the No. 9 hitter, had a pair of singles and scored twice.
The Lady Eagles scored once in the first segment when Bowling led off with a base hit up the middle.
She the stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch.
A Madison Turner ground out to second was all Bowling needed to streak home from third.
The Lady Eagles' remaining runs all were plated in the bottom of the fifth.
That's when Bailee Gates, Willis, Blankinship and Kaitlin Tugwell accounted for singles to go along with Littlejohn's round trip shot and Bowling's smash two bagger.
Chelsie Daniels stole a base and scored a run for Rusk also.
Taylor Jobe had Groesbeck's lone safety, a single to left that led off the fifth inning.
The only other Lady Goat to reach base was Bailey Johnson who batted after Jobe.
Johnson was hit by a pitch after making an unorthodox-looping attempt at a bunt.
Ashley Mills was tagged with the pitching loss for Groesbeck.
Rusk head coach Ashley Renner said that her team did get off to a slow start offensively, but that that was not cause for worry.
“Their (Groesbeck) pitcher was bustin' us inside with her pitches and we haven't seen that a lot this year,” Renner said. “We were making contact and hitting everything to the left side and right at people.
“I think Sydney's home run gave us a lot of confidence from that point on. When I looked at our girls I could tell that they were still confident early on, so that made me more relaxed.”
Rusk will be on the road for the next week, playing at Mexia on Friday and traveling to Fairfield for a Tuesday night game.