Rachel Cowart’s swing is so quick, so aggressive, her coach says, that to ask her to be patient and wait on a pitch requires extra focus for Lambert’s senior catcher. Cowart had not felt that focus throughout stretches of this season, so she doggedly has been searching for it in round after round of batting practice.
“Just tons of batting practice,” Cowart said.
Cowart’s focus seemed sharp Thursday in the Lady Longhorns’ 10-0 victory in five innings against North Forsyth in a Region 5-7A game at home. The Young Harris commit blasted two three-run home runs for six RBI. She added a nice catch on a tough pop-up behind home plate. And she caught five more shutout innings of pitcher Kassidy Krupit, who has not allowed a run in 26 innings of region play.
Cowart helped Lambert (9-1, 5-0) finish off an undefeated first trip through the region schedule with an imposing display of power at the plate and on the mound.
Marissa Guimbarda hit a first-inning home run, then just missed another in the fourth when she crushed a 2-0 pitch off the top of the centerfield wall. Guimbarda settled for a double. Krupit followed Guimbarda with a line drive home run to left centerfield.
Graham Bryant went 2-for-3, and the Lady Longhorns pounded out 10 hits in all off North pitchers Sara King and Ashton Bruce.
Krupit, meanwhile, cruised with relative ease in the circle, allowing just four hits and striking out four in her fourth-straight shutout in region play.
“I think today was nice for them,” Lambert head coach Brooks Youngblood said, “because they finally see the hard work – because we’ve been hitting a lot [in practice] – pay off.”
Perhaps most eager to see results was Cowart. She began the season batting cleanup. On Thursday, she found herself hitting eighth.
But Cowart had diagnosed the problem.
“I have struggled on waiting on the ball,” Cowart said.
After grounding out to the pitcher in her first at-bat, Cowart found herself in an 0-2 count in the bottom of the third inning with runners on first and third. King’s next pitch was high and outside, but Cowart squared it, driving it deep to right centerfield for her first three-run home run.
“I was trying to focus more on protecting the plate,” Cowart said. “I just kind of threw my hands, and it went my way and went over.”
Cowart returned to the plate in the bottom of the fourth with Lambert already leading 7-0 and Skylar Aledia and Lindsey Nelson on first and second after back-to-back singles. Cowart worked a 2-0 count on Bruce, then turned on an inside pitch. The ball soared down the left field line and over the fence.
“I just really concentrated on staying back and waiting on it,” Cowart said, “and it worked.”
Nothing seemed to work for North (7-3, 3-2). Mallorie Black, Bella Caracciolo and Amber Jones had the Lady Raiders’ only hits. North moved a runner into scoring position just once. The Lady Raiders committed two errors.
“When you don’t play good defense and you don’t pitch well, you can’t beat a good team,” North head coach Bud Henderson said. “We struggled on the mound. We struggled backing her up. We left some pitches out there, we left them a little too fat. I think we’re a little bit nervous.”