Being a pitcher only, Melisa Nelson didn't hit in a game situation for more than half the season. So when the Paul Laurence Dunbar sophomore led off the sixth inning — her Bulldogs down by a run in a regional playoff game — she was only trying to make contact and get on base.
Nelson made contact and "it just kept carrying," she said. It carried right over the left-field wall, tying the game 7-7 in the top of the sixth.
That lead-off homer would set the tone in an inning that saw Paul Laurence Dunbar plate five and finally bury a resilient Madison Southern squad, 11-7, on Tuesday night in the final first-round game of the 11th Region softball tournament at Frederick Douglass High School. The game was slated to finish Monday night but rain forced a postponement.
In last week's 43rd District Tournament, Dunbar head coach Lauren Mitchell said her Bulldogs played through a two-day-long game because of rain. Last week, the Bulldogs "wilted off" when play continued the next day and finished as the runner-up to Lafayette. When this game resumed Tuesday night, Mitchell said her team came out with even more energy.
Nelson's home run and subsequent pitching performance was a good jump start.
"For her to come out and jack a home run, that's pretty special and it's special for everybody in the dugout," Mitchell said. After her solo dinger, Nelson was dominant from the circle to close out the game. She allowed no hits in the final two innings.
Dunbar will take on Woodford County in Wednesday's semifinals, and Mitchell said her team plans for another win — if the Bulldogs are confident.
"That's our main thing," Mitchell said. "As long as we're confident, then I think that we could beat anybody."
Thanks to Monday's washout, the rest of the 11th Region softball tournament has been delayed by a day. The semifinals will begin Wednesday night and the championship will be played on Thursday at 7 p.m. All games are at Frederick Douglass high school.
Franklin County (17-19) will take on top-ranked Scott County (31-2) at 6 p.m. On Monday, Franklin beat Lafayette in a tight 4-1 decision and Scott County dropped 21 runs on Berea in a three-inning game.
Paul Laurence Dunbar (15-9) and Woodford County (24-8) are scheduled to square off at 8 p.m. Monday, Woodford defeated host Frederick Douglass 18-8 in a five-inning game.
More rain is in the forecast, so the schedule could be shuffled again.