Franklin County fielders seemed to have no problem staring into the sun for much of Monday morning.
In fair and foul territory, the Flyers' defense gazed skyward to track down close to a dozen fly balls to help their team to a 4-1 victory over Lafayette in the first round of the 11th Region Tournament at Frederick Douglass High School. The Flyers' freshman pitcher, Peyton Sutton, said the pop-ups were part of the program.
"I just need to throw strikes, let my defense do the work behind me," said Sutton, who struck out two and allowed five hits in seven innings. "It's not my job to go in and strike everybody out. Just get pop flys, ground balls."
Franklin County head coach Tracy Spickard said the win was a combination of good pitching and quality defense.
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"We're making hustle plays right and left, working out of tight jams," Spickard said. "(Sutton) worked out of tight jams in the circle and let her defense work behind her. It was a total team effort."
The Flyers' only blemish — one run scored in the sixth — came on one swing of the bat. Senior Lafayette outfielder Tekiya Garr-Carter led off the bottom of the inning with a blooper to shallow left field. The left fielder bobbled the ball, and Garr-Carter took advantage. She rounded first, hungry for second.
The left fielder's throw sailed over second base and eluded the right fielder that was trying to back up the throw. With the ball rolling toward the right-field foul line, Garr-Carter rounded third and scored easily. An overjoyed first base coach ran over to give the senior a chest bump that sent her flying into the back stop. The play was recorded as a double with errors to both the right and left fielders.
Garr-Carter's mad dash was too little, too late as the Generals (20-12-1) were still down three runs after she crossed home. Just a half-inning before, the Flyers plated three on a passed ball, an RBI single and a sac-fly.
"We just kind of let up a bit and lost our focus, threw the ball around and (Garr-Carter) took advantage," Spickard said. "But that's one play, one run you got to fight through and sustain your composure."
The Flyers (16-19) will have to continue to sustain that composure for tomorrow's semifinal matchup against top-ranked Scott County (30-2). The Cardinals dispatched Berea 21-0 in three innings on Monday.
"Every opponent is a tough opponent at this stage of the season," Spickard said. "We're just going to focus on our mechanics and our fundamentals and playing our game."
Franklin County's win Monday avenged a 6-4 first-round loss to Lafayette in last year's region tournament.
Spickard said great things will come to the team that "gives continuous effort and plays the hardest," and her Flyers plan on doing just that. Motivation, at this stage of the season, "ought to be given."
11th Region softball tournament
At Frederick Douglass High School
Franklin Co. 4, Lafayette 1
Scott Co. 21, Berea 0
Woodford Co. 18, Frederick Douglass 8
Madison Southern vs. Paul Laurence Dunbar, (n)
Scott Co. vs. Franklin Co., 6 p.m.
Woodford Co. vs. Madison Southern-Dunbar winner, 8 p.m.
Championship, 7 p.m.