WALKER – What began under a dark, threatening sky featuring a first-inning rain, seemingly cleared up for Walker High with one mighty swing of the bat.
Freshman third baseman Lainee Bailey cranked a grand slam homer – the first of her career – and pitcher Hailey Pourciau took advantage of the early offensive support to help the Lady Cats register a 9-0 District 4-5A victory Thursday evening over Live Oak at Randy Bradshaw Softball Field.
“Our team’s really good at staying into the game and staying focused,” said Bailey, who homered for the fourth time this season. “It was a matter of keeping up the intensity.”
Walker’s early offensive uprising took place in the bottom of the first after the Lady Cats’ defense provided a spark in the top half of the inning.
Live Oak catcher Brett Leiva delivered a hard-hit ball toward the right-center gap that Walker center fielder Savanah Stafford fired back toward the infield where second baseman Laynie Jones tagged out Leiva to end the inning.
“I knew coming in my defense was going to have to work and we did better than we did the past few days,” Pourciau said. “Live Oak has some good hitters and we did our job.”
Walker (10-5, 2-0 in district) loaded the bases against Live Oak starter Sophia Foster on an infield single from Stafford, followed by consecutive one-out singles from Jones and catcher Alayna Daigrepont.
Bailey worked the count to 3-2 and then fouled off four consecutive pitches from Foster before finding one she liked, driving the 10th pitch of the at bat over the fence in left-center field.
“I had to do my job which is to get a hit,” Bailey said. “It felt really good. It makes me feel like they know I can do my job and they have my back when we got back to defense. It’s a good feeling.”
Walker coach Hali Westmoreland Fletcher didn’t underscore the importance of Bailey’s hit which tipped off her team’s seven-run opening frame.
“It was a great momentum boost for us,” she said. “It helped them to reach their goal to win every inning. It showed them they could do this.”
The 7-0 lead, which included three unearned runs after a two-out infield error, was the type of start Westmoreland-Fletcher was looking for in order to help her team that featured five freshman starters relax.
Brennan Jones and Stafford each had run-scoring hits during the inning in which Walker batted around, picking up six hits.
“They’ve never played 4-5A play before,” she said of her freshman group. “It showed the team we could do this. They knew their roles and they did them well.”
Pourciau, like Foster, had to pitch in less than ideal conditions with heavy rain falling in the first inning that eventually tapered off and eventually stopped by the third inning.
Pourciau never allowed more than two base runners in any one inning, twice allowing consecutive hits in the third and sixth innings, but two days after piling up 17 runs, Live Oak (6-7, 1-2) was shut out for the first time this season.
“A grand slam in the first inning will affect your whole mentality,” Live Oak coach Michelle Morris said. “I feel like we let that affect us too long in the game. Sophia did a good job after that, but the rest of the time we’ve got to clean up the errors and catch the ball.”
Pourciau got Emma Hunt to bounce into a fielder’s choice that resulted in Emma Trippi being thrown out by Walker shortstop Madelyn Bourgoyne at third base to end the inning.
Emalea Dimaio and Jenea Adams had back-to-back, two-out singles in the sixth when Pourciau finished the inning with a strikeout of Elaina Kreamer.
Pourciau allowed five hits, struck out five and didn’t walk a batter.
“I hit my spots and that has to be on in order to get ground balls like we did,” Pourciau said. “I trust my defense so much. To know they make those outs makes me feel better. It also brings up the team also.”
Walker, which had nine hits led by Stafford and Daigrepont with two hits apiece, added a pair of runs in the third when Bourgoyne’s fly ball was misplayed in the outfield, enabling Bree Brown to score from second and Walker tacked on another unearned run on Live Oak’s third error of the game.
“We came out and the goal was to play our game,” Westmoreland-Fletcher said. “We’ve been learning the past week. The goal was to win every inning and be ourselves. No pressure, don’t think, just come out and play softball. They executed what they’ve been working so hard on.”
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