Senior leadership sometimes can be painful.
Independence’s Brooke Foley gritted her teeth and bore down Thursday, ignoring a world of pain to pitch two strong innings and secure a 12-5 victory over Summers County.
Every pitch hurt.
“When I’m pitching, I can’t even lift my arm above my chest,” Foley said. “But my team needed me.”
Foley, who pitched the majority of Independence’s games last season, has rarely taken the mound this season because of an early-season arm injury.
Promising freshman Emily Ward, expected to come along slowly, has instead been forced to become the workhorse for the Lady Patriots. She’s performed well, but is herself hampered by a bad back.
So when Ward had worn down after five innings against Summers, her mom, coach Patti Ward, was forced to turn to her most experienced pitcher.
“I really didn’t want to pitch Brooke, but we had to do something,” Ward said. “Emily had pitched 13 innings last night (in a doubleheader split with Shady Spring), and five today. Her back was hurting, but she did OK.
“Brooke stepped up, and it worked out.”
Foley struck out three of the four batters she faced in the sixth inning, and worked out of a jam in the seventh to nail down the save.
“The arm really is awful. Some of my pitches hurt worse than others,” Foley said. “My accuracy is around where it’s always at, but the speed is definitely not there. It feels like something is holding my arm back.”
Summers (6-19) started a one-out rally when Alexis Plumley drew a base on balls. Foley fanned Megan Thompson, but Brittney Thompson lined a double to right field. Plumley stopped a third base.
Undaunted, Foley knew she had to rise to the occasion.
“When you’re a senior, they thrive off you,” she said. “I had to get through the pain.”
Now facing the other half of Summers’ stellar twin freshman duo, Whittney Justice, Foley mustered all the speed she could to fire one by her for strike three.
Foley had carried out her mission.
“Emily is hurt, and I know what it is like to have to pitch every game,” she said. “I pitched every game last year, and it was awful. Your body gets exhausted.”
Ward allowed one earned run, through five innings. She had scattered hits by the Justice twins, Tabason Torres and Alexis Plumley, but had walked seven batters.
Her opposite number, Brittney Justice, had allowed two earned runs and seven hits through the first five innings. She had walked just two batters, but was hampered by six errors.
Foley and Jordan Hall had RBIs in a four-run fourth inning, and Elizabeth Epling tripled and Foley singled in a six-run fifth.
Independence finished with seven hits, but had numerous stolen bases.
“If you play aggressively, you get some momentum going,” Ward said. “They feel better when they play that way. We had to make something happen.”
Summers was missing several players, but was in the game until the fifth inning.
“We had freshmen making their first start in varsity games,” coach Mike Sheaves said. “They really came through.
“We had a couple of breakdowns today and that hurt us, but we played hard.
“Brittney is pitching better, and we had a freshman catcher (Makenzi White) who looked good. Things are looking up.
“We’re still enthused, and that’s the main thing.”
Summers plays a 5:30 p.m. game today at Oak Hill, while Independence hosts Westside at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Both clubs will enter Class AA Region 3, section 1 play Tuesday evening at Liberty High School.
— E-mail: dstillwell
Senior leadership sometimes can be painful.
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