By Mike Phillips
Special to the Daily Sun
It took over three hours to play and the two teams combined for 38 hits and 29 runs. The pitchers from both teams slammed monster shots for homers, and if that wasn't enough there was even a confusing call in the sixth when the umpires over-turned a call at first that kept the inning alive and fueled a conference on the diamond that lasted more than 10 minutes before they came to a final decision.
Talk about fun at the old ball park.
“It's always crazy when we come over here,'' said Blooming Grove Coach Haley Harrell, whose team survived Tuesday, beating Rice 18-11 in a wild and crazy softball game at Rice, where the Lady Bulldogs went down swinging, scoring three runs in the bottom of the seventh with one final surge before it ended.
The game was just that good.
“Getting out of here with a win is the big, big win,'' Harrell said. “It's one of the biggest wins we have.''
Surviving is what the BG kids are good at. They were coming off an emotional come-from-behind 6-5 eight-inning win over Mildred, which not only ended Mildred's three-year winning streak in the district, but forged a first-place tie in District 23-2A with Mildred, which is ranked No. 7 in the state, and Teague.
Then they survived again on Tuesday with the wild seven-run sixth inning that lifted BG to a 15-8 lead.
When the Lady Lions (5-1 in the district race) erupted for the big inning Harrell had but one thought.
“It's about dad-gum time,'' she said after the game. “We had beaten them twice in tournaments but they Rice) hit the ball played us tough. We made some mistakes, but we came back.''
Senior pitcher Falcon Thompson said the kids rallied themselves.
“We were pretty down,'' she said. “But in the fourth inning the seniors got together and we said: 'We've got to step up and do something.'”
BG stormed back and it was Thompson who delivered on of the biggest blows of the day, a towering solo shot in the fifth that knotted the score at 8-8. It was a bomb. The ball not only cleared the right field wall, but cleared the fence beyond the wall and landed on the railroad tracks behind the ball park.
It was the first home run of her career.
“I can't even describe how I felt,'' said Thompson, who had three hits, scored three times and drove in three runs. “I knew I had to step up and do something.''
Blooming Grove seemed to take the momentum from Thompson's shot heard on the railroad tracks (Falcon's shot, not Bobby's 1951 Shot) and take over the game.
The Lady Lions had plenty of stars, including Brittany Nichols, who had three hits and scored three runs, Sydney Horner, who hit well, played brilliant at third base, had two hits and scored twice, and Steely Southard, who had two hits and scored twice.
Rice was led by pitcher Hanna Owens, who did everything and then some in one of the most memorable performances of this season — or any season.
Owens started and was sharp, giving up only unearned runs early while striking out four in the first two innings. She went 5 for 5 from the plate, including a monster two-run homer and a double. She drove in four runs and scored twice. If that wasn't enough, she had an incredible day in the field, making several highlight plays, including the play of the game. With the bases loaded in the second, Southard ripped a laser shot up the middle that would have brought in two runs, but Owens made an amazing catch to end the inning.
Rice also had big games from Samantha Harris, who hit a double and a triple and scored twice, and Cassidy Blake, who had three hits. Both had hits in the bottom of the seventh as Rice battled to the end.
“Hats off to my kids. They played their hearts out,'' said Rice Coach Phillip Eddins, whose team has lost some tough games in the district race this season. “We hit the ball as well as we've hit it all year.
“There were some huge momentum swings in the game. Hats off to Blooming Grove.''
The Lady Lions led 2-0 and then Rice erupted for a six-run second inning and it was on — a see-saw slugfest that saw Rice bang out 21 hits and Blooming Grove rap out 17. BG closed to 6-5 and then Rice dropped a two spot in the fourth to go up 8-6 only to see BG come right back with two in the top of the fifth to knot it at 8-8. The Lady Lion led 10-8 going into the sixth and then the floodgates opened for a seven-run inning and it was a 15-8 game.
The sixth included a two-out call at first that seemed to end the inning with BG leading 10-8. But after calling the runner out, the umpires listened to an appeal and reversed the call after the Rice kids were already in the dugout. BG built the lead to 15-8 and then added three more runs in the seventh before Rice countered with its last three runs.