With a “K” written in eye black adorning each cheek, Nederland pitcher MaKayla Kelly decided to pile some more K’s onto the scorecard.
The right-handed senior struck out 12 to lead the Lady Bulldogs past Livingston 4-1 on Tuesday night in District 20-4A play at the Nederland Softball Field.
“(MaKayla) pitched excellently,” Nederland head coach Will Mallette said. “That’s probably the best game she’s pitched all year long. She hasn’t had that many strikeouts this year. She was just dominant. I was pleased.”
Kelly struck out the first hitter she faced in the first inning on three pitches and ended the game on a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play.
With a runner on first and one out in the top of the seventh, Kelly threw one past Livingston’s Sabrina Rodriguez. But, catcher Nicole Matise couldn’t hold onto the third strike and Rodriguez ran down to first.
Since the base was occupied, Rodriguez couldn’t technically advance on the dropped third strike, but the Livingston base runner still tried to take second and was caught stealing to end the game.
It was a savvy defensive play for the Lady Bulldogs in a game where they didn’t need many of them.
“Teams usually put the ball in play against her and we play great defense behind her,” Mallette said. “But, she was just dominant tonight.”
Nederland was quick to seize a lead in the first inning. Left fielder Tori Cooper hit a one-out double to right center and was sacrificed over to third by Matise.
Kelsey Beard then hit a towering double over the head of Livingston’s left fielder to score Cooper easily and give Kelly and the Lady Bulldogs a 1-0 lead.
Pitching with the lead seemed to agree with Kelly, who came out in the second and struck out the side.
“I think it gave everyone confidence,” Mallette said. “We know we can play a 1-0 ball game and win it. The way she was pitching tonight, it just boosted her morale even more and let her do what she wanted to do. It was just fun watching her throw.”
Nederland added another run in the bottom of the third when right fielder Kelly Bergeron led off with a single and scored four batters later on a wild pitch.
In the bottom of the fifth, Nederland’s offense again came through, as shortstop Savana Guidry, Cooper and Matise hit back-to-back-to-back one-out doubles to make it 4-1 Nederland.
That’s exactly the kind of offense Mallette is expecting out of his team this season, with all nine players chipping in equally.
“Everyone has been selfless this year batting,” Mallette said. “Anyone can bunt and we can take anyone deep 1 through 9. If we get one on, we’ll manufacture a run. No one pouts about bunting, it’s just a team thing. They know their role and they fulfill it. We capitalize on everyone’s mistakes.”
Cooper finished the game 2 for 2 with two doubles, two runs scored and an RBI. Beard was 1 for 2 with a double, an RBI and a walk while Guidry was 2 for 3 with a double and a run scored.
Nederland (14-5, 2-0) will continue district play Friday at Little Cypress-Mauriceville.
Nederland 4, Livingston 1
Liv 000 100 0 — 1 4 0
Ned 101 020 X — 4 7 0
Hallie Smith and Randee Crawford; MaKayla Kelly and Nicole Matise. W — Kelly (8-3). L — Smith.
Leading hitters: NED — Kelsey Beard 1-2, 2B, RBI, BB; Tori Cooper 2-2, 2 2B, 2 runs scored, RBI; Savana Guidry 2-3, 2B, run scored; Matise 1-2, 2B, RBI.
Records: Nederland (14-5, 2-0 in 20-4A); Livingston (0-2).
Next: Nederland at Little Cypress-Mauriceville, 7 p.m. Friday