September 6, 2013

Lady Colts’ Harden strikes again for win

Chris Whitfield
chriswhitfield@daltoncitizen.com

VARNELL — Erin Harden has waited a long time for her senior high school softball season.

The Coahulla Creek pitcher just didn’t know how long of a wait it was going to be.

As a sophomore at Christian Heritage, Harden tore her anterior cruciate ligament in a basketball game. The next school year, she transferred to Coahulla Creek, but since Christian Heritage had recently joined the Georgia High School Association, she had to sit out a year because of GHSA transfer rules.

Now she is back in the circle — and the Lady Colts are certainly benefiting from it.

Harden has reached double digits in strikeouts several times this season and she did it again at home Thursday, sitting down 13 Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe batters as Coahulla Creek swept the home-and-home Region 5-3A season series with the Lady Warriors by winning 6-3.

“Coming back from surgery and missing my entire junior year, I really wanted to have a standout senior season,” Harden said. “This is my first year getting to play with most of these girls, and I have loved every minute of playing with them.”

Harden has been a monster for opposing batters, reaching double digits in strikeouts in the past three games. For the year, she has a 2.21 ERA with 86 strikeouts in 60 inn-ings pitched. The win pushed her record to 7-3.

It has paid off as the Lady Colts are 10-3 overall and 5-1 in region play. Coahulla Creek’s only losses are to Ringgold and Class 4A foes Northwest Whitfield — which is undefeated — and Heritage-Catoosa.

“She is really on her game right now, and we are playing well behind her,” Lady Colts coach Josh Swiney said.

“She is hitting her spots and just pitching well right now. Her riseball is really confusing hitters. But our record is because of a complete team effort.”

Both defensively and at the plate, the Lady Colts have been impressive so far. Third baseman Lasha Hedden was 2-for-3 with an RBI and run scored against LFO (4-9, 3-5), and she also had several nifty plays in the field. Leadoff hitter Haley Reece was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored, while designated hitter Sydney Ross was 2-for-2 with a double and a run scored.

Harden’s only real trouble came when she lost some of her control and walked several batters. In the first inning, a walk and two singles loaded the bases with no outs, and after striking out cleanup hitter Cheyenne Burns, Harden walked in the first run of the game. However, she limited the damage with another strikeout and a weak grounder to first baseman Baylee Adkins.

Harden’s other trouble came in the fourth when a pair of one-out walks, an error and a sacrifice fly gave LFO two more runs. But that would be all the Lady Warriors managed as Harden ended the fifth with a strikeout, struck out the side in the sixth and struck out two of three batters in the seventh.

The Lady Colts tied the game at 1 in the second on Hedden’s RBI single to bring in Ross, who led the inning off with a double. In the third, Reece led off with a single, second baseman Shelbe Dilbeck drew a walk and catcher Emily Banks drove in Reece. Dilbeck came in on Ross’ RBI single to give Coahulla Creek a 3-1 lead.

After LFO tied the game in the fourth, the Lady Colts pushed across two runs in the bottom half of the inning and never trailed again. Hedden and Banks had back-to-back singles to start the fourth and moved around on Kala Franks’ sacrifice bunt. Both came in to score on Reece’s single to right for a 5-3 advantage.

The Lady Colts added an insurance run in the sixth as Franks scored.