Baker, Wilkinson combine for 18 strikeouts in pitching duel

The temperature heated up Friday and so did the pitching at St. Stephens.
Lady Indians’ pitcher Katie Baker and Alexander Central’s pitcher Chelsea Wilkinson combined to allow one hit in six innings in Friday’s Northwestern Conference battle. 

The Lady Cougars (5-0, 4-0) got the best of Baker and the Indians (4-2, 0-2) in the sixth inning, as she allowed two crucial hits. The Indians made two critical errors in a heartbreaking 3-0 loss at home.

Friday’s loss comes two days after St. Stephens lost to Fred T. Foard in conference action, as Tigers’ pitcher Lexi Shubert threw a no-hitter against the Indians.

“Like I told the girls at the beginning of the season, I don’t put teams on our schedule that won’t make us any better,” said Indians coach Jan Davis. “We open up with what I think will be our toughest competition. We knew that coming in. It has been that way for the last two years, and we knew this was going to be a tough week.”

Wilkinson struck out eight of the first nine batters in three innings. Also Baker allowed no hits in the first six innings.

“(Baker) did a great job,” Davis said. “Being a sophomore on the mound, I think she figured out last year that Alex Central is a great team, but we can be competitive against them. Whenever she got on the mound, you could tell she was a little nervous, but she stayed with it. She put her pitches where they needed to be and continued on stride until that last inning.”

The first hit of the game came from the bat of Indians’ player ? Vonna Wood. She singled in the fourth inning to break-up a potential no-hitter for Wilkinson and the Lady Cougars. Despite putting runners on second and third in the fourth inning, the Lady Indians came up with no run.

Wilkinson changed her pitching strategy late in the game, as she went from relying on her strong fastball to making more breaking pitches. She continued to mow St. Stephens’ batters like grass and finished with 14 strikeouts and no walks.

The top of the sixth inning spelled doom for the Lady Indians in the game. Baker walked Kaylea Payne, the leadoff batter. Payne moved to second, as Wilkinson bunted her into scoring position.

Cortlin Hartness, the third batter in the inning, flew out. After two Alexander Central outs, it appeared St. Stephens would get out of the inning without allowing a run. That changed on the fourth at-bat of the inning. 

Second basemen Bekah Simpson singled to shallow right field for the first Lady Cougar hit allowed by Baker in the game. Payne scored from second on the play to the give the Lady Cougars the lead.

Two more runs came across the plate on the next two at-bats. Brianna Elder had an RBI-double and pinch runner Katie Lohrei scored an error by shortstop Calyn Davis, which made it 2-0.

The final run of the inning came when Lauren Elder reached base on an error on the Indians’ Wood at third base, which scored Brianna Elder.
“Alex Central got a couple of good hits on us,” Davis said. “We got the ball in like we were supposed to. The hits just landed in the gaps and holes when they needed to be.”

The Lady Indians got a runner in scoring position in the final inning, but were unable to get her home. Wilkinson finished strong, as she struck out the final batter to end the game.

Baker finished the game with a complete, four strikeouts and five walks.
Coach Davis was disappointed with Friday’s result, but was happy about what she saw from her players on the field.

“I was disappointed Wednesday at Foard with our lack of effort,” Davis said. “That is what we talked about on the bus after the game and yesterday. Today, I couldn’t complain about their effort. They came in here and did not quit. They didn’t give up, kept playing hard and played good defense.”