By DANNY P. SMITH
Starkville Daily News
Bailey Wofford carries a big burden with the bat being the only senior for the Starkville Academy girls softball team.
Hitting third in the lineup, Wofford is counted upon heavily to drive in runs for the Lady Volunteers.
That mission was accomplished Tuesday afternoon.
Wofford had four hits with three of them triples, drove in four runs and scored three times as Starkville Academy defeated the Hebron Christian School Lady Eagles 9-4 on the home field.
“How about that hitting from Bailey Wofford?” SA head coach Jessica Dickens said. “Her stick has been coming through for us.”
Wofford knew she did well in the game, but wasn’t satisfied. It was almost as if she was disappointed she didn’t get four triples.
“I know that I did better in this game than I had been in the past games, but I can still do a little better in helping each other out and getting a few more RBIs,” Wofford said.
After Hebron jumped out to a 2-0 lead with an RBI single by Magen Tapley and an RBI groundout by Alaina Hill in the first inning, the Lady Vols responded to take a 3-2 advantage in their half of the frame.
Mary Austin Barber singled to begin the inning, then Megan Picard walked. Wofford got the first of her triples to score Barber and Picard. Wofford scored on a wild pitch.
In the second inning, Starkville Academy produced four more runs to push the margin to 7-2. Emily Gregory walked and eventually scored on a wild pitch, then the same sequence occurred as the first inning as Barber singled, Picard walked and Wofford drove them home with a triple.
“With Mary Austin and Megan getting on base, I could knock them in,” Wofford said.
Wofford capped the second-inning scoring by crossing the plate on a single by Megan Jones.
After the visiting Lady Eagles scratched out one run each in the third and fourth innings, the Lady Vols got both tallies back in the fifth.
Barber reached and advanced all of the way around the bases on a series of wild pitches, while Wofford also came across the dish on a wild pitch following her third triple of the game.
“I was proud of Bailey Wofford and Mary Austin Barber,” Dickens said. “They hit and played well. Julianne (Jackson) was in a little slump hitting, but she’s still solid on the mound. We’ve got the kids we can count on every game.”
Jackson, who had a double on offense, went the distance in the circle, gave up six hits and struck out a pair.
Barber had three singles for SA and Wofford added a single to go along with her three triples. Megan Aucoin and Jones had one single each.
The last three spots in the batting order for the Lady Vols were hitless in 11 trips to the plate and that’s a cause for concern for Dickens.
“We left six runners on base at one time and we’ve got to find someone in the bottom of the order who will swing the bat and knock those in,” Dickens said.
Hebron coach Cass Tapley decided to start Jessica Fleming on the mound instead of regular starter Chloe Tapley.
Fleming only lasted one inning plus after giving up the seven early runs.
After coach Tapley put in Chloe, his daughter, she recorded 10 strikeouts and scattered six hits.
Coach Tapley offered no apologies for starting Fleming.
“My other pitcher just needed some work and most cases she was throwing OK,” Coach Tapley said. “We had to throw it across the plate the first three innings and they hit the ball. I thought our girls did OK and we were set for a game like this.”
Coach Tapley bragged on Starkville Academy, noticing the improvement made by Dickens in a short amount of time.
“They may be the most improved team in the state since the summer to be honest,” Coach Tapley said.
Dickens believes the Lady Vols, who improved to 10-9 overall, are making strides, but still have some areas to smooth out. She didn’t like the fact that the Lady Eagles jumped out to an early lead.
“They are starting to understand and I think we’ve got it in their heads that we can’t give up everything,” Dickens said. “We’re still making some mistakes and giving people stuff, but we’re getting better at it and we’re trying to be more mentally focused the last three games. It feels good and it’s coming together.”
Wofford said it’s going to take support throughout the entire team to keep things moving in a positive direction.
“We have to keep each other up and make sure we make routine plays,” Wofford said. “We’ve got to work on hitting more.”
For Hebron, which fell to 11-6 overall, Magen Tapley had two singles and Tori Nichols added a double.
The Lady Vols travel to Winston Academy Thursday for a varsity doubleheader to make up for a rainout earlier in the season, while the Lady Eagles take on Calhoun Academy Thursday.