Gibbs and Carter aren’t done yet

By Steve Williams

Gibbs and Carter are on a post-season collision course in softball. You can see it coming.

The fact that the 10-time state champion Lady Eagles defeated the up-and-coming Lady Hornets for the second time in a close game last week confirms that.

The battle cry in the Strawberry Plains camp leading up to the District 3-3A tournament, which begins May 8, most likely is “the third time’s the charm.”

And in Corryton, that old saying about “it’s hard to beat a team three times” has to be on the minds of some of the Gibbs fans.

Gibbs won at Carter 5-4 in nine innings in their first meeting, which came on the day Coach Carol Mitchell notched her 1,000th career win. Last week, the Lady Eagles clinched the district title by pulling out a 4-2 win with two runs in the bottom of the sixth.

The Lady Hornets headed back home with mixed emotions.

Carter junior shortstop Kayla Rucker felt the close loss was discouraging yet boosted the team’s confidence. “It does both,” she said.

Second baseman Jenna Wilson, one of Carter’s four freshmen starters, echoed Rucker’s feelings: “We get a little disappointed after the game obviously, but we’re also encouraged because we know we can stick with them,” said Wilson. “We know we have the opportunity to play them again and we can hang with them and beat them.”

Gracie Miller, Carter junior third baseman, pointed out an interesting fact. “The only difference is that in the first inning we always let them get two runs on the board. If we can stop that, I think we have a good chance of winning.”

In both of their previous two battles, Gibbs scored two runs in the first inning, Carter tied the game or went ahead in the middle innings and then Gibbs pulled out the win.

Carter Coach Ryan Burkhart felt his team was “right there” for a victory in the rematch, but their base running mistakes were costly.

“Gibbs is obviously a different animal when it comes to playing clean and doing what they need to do to win,” he said. “There’s a reason they’ve won 10 state championships.

“We’ve had a great year and are hoping we can get hot here and win some games in the post-season. I feel like we have a legit chance to beat anybody we play around here; I really do, if we play our game and we’re swinging the bats, I think we’ve got a shot.”

Carter slipped to 21-5 with the loss, while Gibbs climbed to 25-2.

Coach Mitchell said “timely hitting” was the key to the win in Gibbs vs. Carter II.

“I felt Carter played well,” she added. “They were excited. They were enthusiastic. They didn’t quit in any situation. They battled every inning and they’ve got a really good team.”

Ella Lawhead broke the 2-2 tie with a leadoff home run over the leftfield fence in the sixth inning. Gibbs added an insurance run as Taylor Selby lifted a bloop single down the third base line, stole second and raced home on Malyiah Smith’s triple.

The Lady Eagles scored their two runs in the first when Dakota Large reached on an error and Jordann Reagan doubled. Large scored on Lacey Keck’s fielder’s choice. Lawhead’s sacrifice fly gave Gibbs a 2-0 lead.

Carter executed a big defensive play in the second inning as leftfielder Marah Yeo fielded Emma Keck’s two-out single and threw a one-bounce strike to catcher Bailee Stout, who applied the tag on Large just in time. The speedy Large had led off with a single and stolen second base.

Carter got its bats going in the fourth as Miller led off with a hard single up the middle and Rucker drove her in with a double. Wilson’s single up the middle scored Rucker to tie the game at 2-all.

A base on balls and single by Jade Bell put two runners on base for Gibbs in its half of the fourth, but Miller fielded back-to-back grounders at the hot corner and threw out both runners at first base to end the threat.

Carter’s Ivey Jones led off the fifth with a double down the left field line, but Lacey Keck got out of the jam with a strikeout and a spectacular diving catch by shortstop Smith for the third out.

Carter loaded the bases in the sixth, but with two outs, Jones hit a grounder to short and Smith threw her out on a bang-bang play at first.

Lacey Keck, a sophomore, struck out four in getting the win. Freshman Malaney Etherton took the loss, allowing eight hits, including two to Large.


THE WRAPUP: Both teams finish regular season play this week. Gibbs hosts Farragut today, goes to Powell Tuesday and is back home against Halls Wednesday. Carter travels to Jefferson County today and Central Tuesday before returning home to play Cocke County Wednesday.