LENOX — Lenox scored four runs in a first-inning rally that included two Corning errors here Thursday night.
But there was a lot of softball to be played in this Class 1A regional quarterfinal. The Red Raiders answered with two runs on a pair of Lenox errors in the bottom of the first, and eventually took control with a six-run fifth inning.
That outburst lifted Corning to a 10-6 lead, and the Red Raiders held on for an 11-7 victory to break the tie in their 2013 season series with the Tigers.
“We lost to them, and we beat them, so we knew it could go either way,” said Corning shortstop Kelsie Kinman.
It was Kinman that supplied the big power in deciding which way this third meeting would go. After flying out deep to center field in her first at-bat against Lenox senior Bailey Rainforth, she drilled a double down the left field line in the fourth inning.
That was just a preview for her at-bat in the fifth. Corning had already scored a run in the inning on Sydney Pontius’ RBI double. With Pontius on third after a wild pitch, Kinman powered the ball over the left field fence for her fourth home run to put her team in front, 7-6, and prompt Lenox coach Tom Shields to insert shortstop Katie Dukes in the pitching circle. Beth Christensen relieved Dukes in the sixth inning.
“I knew I had two strikes, and I said I have to hit this,” Kinman said after the game. “It was perfect, right down the middle and a little high.”
“They attack the ball, and you can’t leave it up,” Shields said. “Bailey is sharp when she’s throwing that changeup around the knees and ankles. We were missing our spots.”
Corning coach Allen Naugle knew his team was capable of hitting and scoring runs. It was just a matter of settling down and playing sound defense when it counted.
“Kinman and Sydney Pontius have been knocking the ball around the past couple of weeks,” Naugle said. “They’re on fire. The home run definitely changed the momentum.”
By the time the fifth inning was over, Lenox trailed 10-6 and winning pitcher Ella Akin was staying out of trouble with an improved defense behind her. There are five returnees from last year’s regional finalist team, but only Akin is playing the same position.
“We have so many girls playing these positions for the first time this year,” Naugle said. “It’s been an up and down year. Our record is not the greatest. Some nights we show up on defense, and other nights we don’t. But Ella has pitched consistent the whole year, and we’ve been scoring runs.”
Corning (14-14) plays at Murray against the Mustangs (25-6) on Friday night. The teams have not met this season.
“I heard they have a very good pitcher, they can hit the ball and they have a good defense,” Naugle said. “If our defense shows up, I think we’ll be in the ballgame. Then it’s whoever can grit out those runs.”
Lenox, meanwhile, closes an 18-14 season. Playing their last game were second baseman Hannah Maxa, third baseman Madison Douglas and Rainforth, as well as pitcher-first baseman Lauren Hensley, who suffered a broken leg during the season.
“We matched our win total from last year,” Shields said. “Back-to-back 18-win seasons. It’s been a lot of years since Lenox softball has done that. We’re pretty proud of that. Rainforth and Hensley have been pitching varsity for a lot of years, so we’ll definitely have some changes.”
Corning 11, Lenox 7
R H E
Lenox 400 111 0 — 7 8 6
Corning 200 261 x — 11 11 5
L: Bailey Rainforth 0K 0BB, Katie Dukes (5) 0K 2BB, Beth Christensen 1K 0BB and Aurora Arevalo, Shantelle Brown (6). C: Ella Akin 4K 1BB 1 HBP and Madison Shuey. W — Akin. L— Rainforth. HR — C: Kelsie Kinman. 2B — C: Kinman, Sydney Pontius. RBI — L: Christensen 1, K. Dukes 1, Madison Douglas 1, Brown 1, Arevalo 1; C: Kinman 2, Taylor Gaule 1, Pontius 1, Shuey 1, Ashton Grossnickle 1. Multiple hitters — L: Taylor Foster 2; C: Kinman 3, Shuey 2, Grossnickle 2.