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Freshman Rhoten pitches Rye Cove past Grundy

Lloyd Combs, Sports Correspondent • May 23, 2019 at 12:33 AM

GRUNDY, Va. — As freshman pitcher Lexie Rhoten has improved, Rye Cove has gotten better as a team.

Rhoten and catcher Ashley Smith led the Lady Eagles to a 6-3 win over Grundy in opening round action in Region 1D softball Wednesday at Enoch's Branch Park.

Rye Cove (11-13) travels to Northwood Friday at 5 p.m. in quarterfinal play.

Rhoten threw nothing but strikes, 12 of them, in the first inning. She recorded three outs, all on strikeouts, and gave up one single, then she retired 12 straight batters before Grundy (14-8) pushed across a couple of runs in the fifth inning to cut a 4-0 deficit in half.

“She’s good to go and gather herself before each pitch and she really stepped up,” Rye Cove coach Brittney Salyer said. “With a freshman pitcher, you just never know. But she’s always dependable for us, and we’re happy to have her.”

Ashlynn Berry was 3-for-4 and Smith was 4-for-4 to set the table for the Lady Eagles, who pounded out 13 hits. Cleanup hitter Maddison Miller drove in three runs and Kaycie Jessee smacked two doubles and knocked in two more.

“We’ve struggled hitting throughout our season,” Salyer noted. “We mixed up our lineup a little bit, trying to spread out some hits and things like that.

“We’ve got a couple in a hitting slump, but we’ll straighten it out by Friday.”

Smith, who had a double and three singles, said she was just trying to put the ball in play.

“I was trying to make plays, make contact with the ball, and drive in our runners on base,” she said.

The Golden Wave finally got on the board in the fifth, when Amelya Bostic reached on an error, Rhoten issued her only walk of the game to Mashayla Belcher and Maddie Yates lined a 2-out, 2-run double to center.

“We were too late getting started,” Grundy coach Whitney Compton said. “(Rhoten’s) a good pitcher. The scouting reports I got weren’t very accurate. She mixes it up, she hits her spots and it took four or five innings before we could respond to it.

“They made plays. I feel like anywhere we hit it, they were getting a glove on it. They found the gaps, and we couldn’t.”

Grundy drew within a run, 4-3, in the sixth when Emma Deel doubled home the only Wave senior, Sydney Stiltner.

Rhoten retired the next two batters, allowed a pair of seventh-inning singles, then nailed down a seven-hitter. She struck out nine.

“As a freshman, she’s really carrying the team,” said Smith. “She’s been working in the off-season and in-season. She really kept her composure out there.”

Miller and Jessee drove in insurance runs in the top of the seventh for Rye Cove.