BY MIKE URSERY
The Fayette Lady Falcons moved closer to their first winning season in nine years with an 11-1 win over the Madison Lady Panthers on Oct. 2.
The Lady Falcons improved to 13-11 with the win, and need just one more to secure a record with more wins than losses when the season ends.
The game stayed tight until Fayette was able to find a spark in the fourth inning, scoring six runs and breaking the game open. Through the first three innings, the Lady Falcons had trouble stringing together hits off Madison junior Madison Thomas.
“She’s a good pitcher,” Fayette head coach Mike James said about Thomas. “Madison is a strong pitcher who’s really strong, and she shuts down a lot of good teams. I thought our girls did a good job of getting to her and putting the ball in play when it counted.”
Fayette’s game against Madison was their last home game of the regular season, and the last regular season home game for four seniors. Sam Conrow, Kelly Hilgedick, Mikela Howell and Kaitlyn Gibson will graduate at the end of the current academic year.
“This is a tough group to let go,” James said. “All seniors are tough to let go, but this group, in particular.”
James said that Howell made sporadic starts in varsity games when she was a freshman, and became a full-time starter when she was a sophomore. Howell has played all three outfield positions for Fayette, and has been moved up and down the lineup.
“She’s won us so many games with her defense and her ability to steal bases,”James said. “She’s just a good, quiet leader. She’s leads by example and not through words. We’re going to miss her tremendously.”
Conrow has been a starter for four years, James said, adding that she has been clutch in crucial situations on both offense and defense.
“She’s one of the nicest kids I’ve ever had the pleasure to coach,” James said. “We’re going to miss her tremendously.”
Hilgedick began pitching at the varsity level as a junior, when she became the Lady Falcons’ primary starting pitcher.
“If you could have seen Kelly freshman yer to Kelly now, it’s pretty amazing,” James said. “The only reason that happened is because she dedicated herself to hard work.”
James said that Hilgedick would show up to school as early as 6:45 a.m. to work on her pitching.
“She really is what coaching is all about,” James said. “She came from a place where she wasn’t that good yet. Nothing was handed to her. She had to really work for it.”
Gibson joined the softball team this year, but hasn’t played this season due to a knee injury.
Hilgedick recorded nine strikeouts over six innings pitched against Madison. She allowed one run on only two hits, with two walks.
Junior first baseman Jennifer Nelson drove in the game’s first run in the first. She hit an RBI-single that allowed sophomore Abbey Conrow to score from second.
Fayette didn’t score again until the fourth inning. Hilgedick and Madison were locked in a pitching duel up to that point. Fayette led 1-0 after three innings.
Nelson led off the fourth with a single to left field. Junior left fielder Murpy Quint followed with a bunt single, moving Nelson to third.
Nelson scored on a wild pitch, making the score 2-0. With Quint at third, junior shortstop Skylar Garing laid down a bunt. Quint scored for a successful squeeze play.
In the fifth inning, the first eight hitters reached base before Madison could get anyone out.
Abbey Conrow drove in the first run of the inning with an infield single. Junior third baseman Emma Hoover scored from third.
Nelson drove in two more runs in the inning, making it a 6-0 game. Quint also had an RBI-single.
Two more runs were scored on an error in the inning, and the score was 9-0.
Madison scored a run in the top of the sixth. Nelson and Hilgedick both drove in runs in the bottom of the sixth to seal the 11-1 win.
Fayette played their regular season finale at Glasgow on Oct. 3. Results were not available at press time.
Fayette hosts the Class 1 District 6 tournament Oct. 4-5.
The Lady Falcons are the No. 2 seed in the four-team playoff, and will play against the Leeton Lady Bulldogs (8-9) at 5 p.m. on Oct. 4.
The No. 1 Pilot Grove Lady Tigers (14-7) are scheduled to play the No. 4 New Franklin Lady Bulldogs (6-15) at 7 p.m. on Oct. 3.
The winners of each game will meet in the district championship game at 6 p.m. on Oct. 5.