By Bryan Davis
It was an afternoon of fives for the Oak Hill Academy Diamond Raiders and their head coach, Marion Bratton.
Tuesday was Bratton’s 55th birthday. He was born at 5:55 a.m. in 1955. The game ended with an Oak Hill 6-2 win in the fifth inning, leading to a lot of high fives in the circle when the game was over.
“It was a very sweet 55th birthday,” Bratton said. “It was a great birthday present.”
The game ended on a time limit, just after Meg McBrayer sliced a three-run triple down the right field line to give her team the decisive win.
When the game started, Bratton did not know how things were going to turn out. They had been defeated in the late innings by the Lady Mavericks down in Yazoo City a couple of weeks ago. No lead was safe, and to compound things, starter Mamie Allen had been out the last week with a calf injury.
She was cleared to play Tuesday morning, but she was not going to be the starter in the circle.
“Coming into the ball game, we did not know who was going to throw this game,” said Bratton. “We really didn’t. We thought it was going to by Kim Kelly. We thought it was going to be Mary Helon (Hays).”
It turned out that freshman Maegan Ellis got the call to the circle, and did she ever come through in the clutch for the Lady Raiders?
In the first inning, Ellis surrounded a walk and a steal with two strikeouts and a groundout.
The bottom of the first did not yield much for Oak Hill either, as they went down 1-2-3. However, the girls did put the bat on the ball, slapping a couple of line drives right at the left and center fielders of Manchester.
In the top of the second, Ellis found herself in her first jam of the day. True in the clutch, she struck out her opponent, looking, with runners at second and third, letting no one cross the plate.
The bottom of the second proved to have the first blood drawn by either team. Paige Dawkins led things off with a single to right field.
Tori Ellis bunted her over to second. Abby Falkner walked, setting up sophomore Kim Kelly’s one-out single to right to plate the first run of the game.
McBrayer would walk in the inning, but it would lead to no further damage by Oak Hill.
In the top of the third, Ellis continued her dominance over the Lady Mavericks, who despite a walk, were held scoreless.
Leading 1-0, the Lady Raiders needed insurance. Mary Helon Hays reached with one out in the inning. She would steal second with Dawkins at the plate. After a ground out, Hays was at third.
The Oak Hill third baseman would score easily on a wild pitch to make it 2-0. That would be the last of the scoring in the third, however.
The Lady Mavericks went quietly in the top of the fourth, and in the bottom of the inning, Oak Hill was desperately trying to get some more runs to pad their slim lead.
Kelly led off the inning with a single to center. Jessie Cole pinch ran for her.
After a wild pitch and a bunt single by Anne Stevens, runners were at first and third with no one out. McBrayer would ground to the shortstop, reaching to drive in the third run of the game for Oak Hill.
That was all the scoring for the Lady Raiders in the frame.
In the top of the fifth, the Lady Mavs got a little life in their bats, and Ellis found herself in her worst spot of the day.
The Lady Mavericks would plate two runs to make it a 3-2 ball game going into the bottom of the fifth.
The Lady Raiders knew they were on a time limit, and if they could hold at the plate for about 10 minutes, they would win the game.
Dawkins led off the inning with a single to center. She was followed by Tori Ellis’ single to center.
A bunt single by Falkner had the bases loaded with nobody out.
Unfortunately for the Lady Raiders, Kelly would ground out to the pitcher, who got the force at home. Pinch hitter Lauren Hitt struck out, and it looked like they were going to be forced into letting Manchester bat, trailing by one.
That was unless McBrayer would be able to deliver with two outs. With little time remaining in regulation, McBrayer would either get an out, leading to a Manchester at-bat, or she would hold things long enough to get her team the win.
She did one better than that. She sliced the ball over first base to clear the bases for the win.
“It was 20 seconds to go when he called her back into play,” Bratton said. “Luckily she came through for us with the really big hit. I told her to battle.”
After the game, Bratton had a reason to celebrate.
“It was a great team win,” Bratton said. “It took 13 or 14 of our girls doing different things. We made a couple of mistakes, but we overcame them.”
With the win at Winston last week, the Lady Raiders have kept their playoff hopes alive.
“We’ve got a chance, if Carroll will help us out against Manchester,” Bratton said. “If we can take care of Winston on Monday night, we’ll get a chance to go back to the playoffs for the fifth year in a row.”
They’ll see how things come out when they face Winston, at home, next Monday night.