Every time Guyer sophomore Shayne Starkey made contact with the ball Tuesday night, she let out a scream.
The last time she made contact in the pivotal District 5-4A matchup with district co-leader Wichita Falls Rider, the scream was a little bit louder.
Starkey drove a ball to the right field wall off star pitcher Abby Donnell in the bottom of the sixth inning, providing the first hit of the night for the Lady Wildcats and a key part of a late rally en route to a 2-1 win over the Lady Raiders.
“She was still spinning the ball really well,” Starkey said of Donnell, a Texas A&M signee who took a no-hitter into the sixth with the help of a dominant rise ball. “I just learned to sit back on that rise ball a little more and get on top of it.”
Starkey’s triple might have been the first hit of the night for Guyer (16-2-1, 4-1 district), the 22nd-ranked team in the Texas Girls Coaches Association’s Class 4A state poll, but it didn’t start the Lady Wildcats’ rally.
Guyer coach Keith Medford, who picked up his 299th career victory, decided to let right fielder Molly Dolezel, the flex player, hit for the designated player. Cold off the bench, Dolezel led off the sixth against the hard-throwing Donnell.
She was down in the count 1-2 before fouling off a pitch and eventually drawing a hard-earned walk. After a failed sacrifice bunt attempt, leadoff hitter Kaitlyn Thomas moved Dolezel to second base to set up Starkey’s game-tying heroics.
“Molly had a great at-bat,” Medford said. “It was a walk, and you don’t really consider that a great at-bat most of the time. … We started trying to work the count a little bit. There’s a happy medium where you want to attack a strike against a kid like that, but you have to take some pitches in that situation and hopefully get something to hit.”
After Starkey broke up Donnell’s no-hit bid and tied the game, Donnell’s counterpart stepped to the plate after striking out and being drilled in the back by a pitch earlier in the game.
In the sixth inning, however, Suzette Palmer got her revenge and sunk No. 15 Rider (18-3-1, 3-2) while keeping Guyer in a first-place tie with Fort Worth Brewer and No. 11 Trophy Club Nelson.
Palmer hit a 3-2, two-out pitch to the right-center field gap for a triple of her own to score Starkey.
“We just adjusted,” Palmer said. “Good hitters adjust. That’s what we did, and it worked.”
Palmer wasn’t so bad in the circle herself, giving up two first-inning singles, including one from Katy Hill that scored Stacey Fosnaugh, but a relay from Guyer center fielder Kennedy Been ended up looming large later in the game.
On Hill’s RBI single to center, Karly Gibson was on first base. Hill took second base on Been’s throw to Palmer, the cutoff man. Palmer threw to shortstop Kaitlyn Thomas, who was covering second, but Hill slid under the tag. At that point, Gibson took off for home and Thomas threw to catcher Megan Washam, who applied the tag to end the inning and keep Rider’s lead at 1-0.
Palmer didn’t allow another hit until the top of the seventh, when she gave up a two-out single before Thomas made an over-the-shoulder catch running out into center field to end the game.
“She pitched good enough to win tonight,” Medford said of his senior pitcher. “For her to get that opportunity to win it offensively is pretty special too. You could see it in her eyes. We went and talked before that at-bat, and she wanted to win it. She wanted it. I keep saying this about her, but it’s just grit and sheer determination. That’s how she’s been her whole career — no different tonight.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
GUYER 2, WICHITA FALLS RIDER 1
WP — Suzette Palmer. LP — Abby Donnell. 3B — G: Shayne Starkey, Suzette Palmer.