FAYETTEVILLE — When Fayetteville sophomore Natalie Liner woke up on Friday, she was in somewhat of a slump. Struggling at the plate had become normal for her as of late, but none of the B.B. Comer fans in attendance on Friday night would have believed that.
Against the Tigers, Liner hit for triple three times, including her first two at-bats, on only four plate appearances to lead the Wolves to a 12-8 victory over B.B. Comer (8-10).
“I felt like I finally got that monkey off my shoulder that I’ve been having,” Liner said. “It just felt really good.”
In addition to her three hits, Liner finished with a game-high three RBIs and a game-high three runs scored.
Her game at the plate was almost flawless, but she tested her streak when she beat the ball to third base by a matter of seconds in the fifth inning.
“She for sure picked up the pace after she rounded second base and saw where that ball was in left field with us bringing her on, she kicked it up a notch,” Fayetteville coach Leigh Holley said.
Not that the Wolves coach minded that aggressive attitude on the bases. In fact, she counted on it.
“I think we set the tone for that in that first inning when Hevin Hurley got off in that leadoff spot,” Holley said of her team’s tendency to push things on the bases. “We had already talked about it yesterday. I said if you get on, then we’re gone first pitch. We’re going to get you moved into scoring position.
“Tonight was an important game for us, and having that little bit of cushion through the whole ball game opened up the door for us to do some of those things that they were wanting to do on the bases.”
Hurley finished the game with a game-high four hits on five at-bats. Despite that consistency, she was stranded three times. Hurley’s only score came in the first inning when she stole her way to third before Liner stepped up.
Of course, the Wolves weren’t the only team to get off to a great start. B.B. Comer kicked things off with two doubles from the Tigers leadoff and No. 2 hitters, freshman Katelyn Carrion and sophomore Emma McCain, respectively.
The Tigers scored four runs in the first inning alone and collected nine total hits in the game, which was a huge improvement from Tuesday’s two-hit, 3-0 loss to Childersburg.
“It made a difference in our hitting altogether, the whole game” B.B. Comer coach Tabitha Wheeler said. “So I was very proud of them. It helped too yesterday we played (Central) Coosa and won 15-5, so that kind of helped us.”
Four to know
— Fayetteville pitcher Scarlett Nichols gave up three hits right away, but she didn’t let a less than ideal start rattle her. Nichols struck out eight of 37 batters faced and only allowed nine total hits.
— Liner wasn’t the only big hitter for the Wolves on Friday night. Sophomore Jade Shell hit two doubles, scored two runs and tied Liner with a game-high three RBIs.
— While McCain’s biggest play came early, it wasn’t her only highlight moment. After earning a walk in the sixth inning, McCain went ahead and stole second as well, all in one quick sprint from home plate. The B.B. Comer sophomore was also responsible for breaking up Liner’s hitting streak when she caught the ball in the third inning to send the Fayetteville batter back to the dugout.
— Fayetteville threatened to put the game completely out of reach at the bottom of the sixth inning. Despite facing two outs, the Wolves loaded the bases with Liner up next in rotation. Or at least that is what should have happened. One of the base runners saw the opportunity to steal home and seemed all but guaranteed to score, but B.B. Comer first baseman Ever Harris found catcher Karleigh Milam at the last possible moment to deny the run and end the inning before Liner could do any more damage.
— Tabitha Wheeler on the competitive game after falling to Fayetteville 13-11 earlier this season: “I was proud of how they came together, and once they made the little adjustments, they played as a team. As a coach, I can’t complain about anything, I’m proud of their hitting, and we will face this team again in area play, and we should beat them next time.”
— Holley on Liner’s performance: “She has had some ball games where she has struggled recently. So to see her hit the ball that well tonight, I think it shows we’re starting to get back in our groove coming out of spring break, and that is sometimes hard to do.”