NEW CASTLE – The Craig County Rockets hope to come out of this week no worse than third in the Pioneer District softball standings.
Craig comes into the week at 3-3 in Pioneer games with four to play. The Rockets hooked up with James River in Buchanan Tuesday, and the Knights are tied for the lead with Bath County, a team that defeated Craig in New Castle last Friday.
Today, Wednesday, the Rockets have an important makeup game with Covington. Saturday the regular season concludes with a doubleheader at Highland County. Craig has already beaten Covington once and Highland has a weak team, so if the favorites win all week the Rockets could end the regular reason at 6-4 in the district, and that would be good for third place.
“If we play well we have a chance to beat James River, and that would give us a chance to tie for second,” said coach Trent Lipes. “I’d like to come out of this week in no worse than third place.”
Third would be a good spot, because that would put the Rockets in the opposite bracket of the regular season champion for the Pioneer District tournament. That would make an easier road to travel to make the regional.
One thing that will make it tougher is that ace pitcher Nicole Craft won’t be able to pitch the James River game after suffering some shoulder soreness last week. Nicole can still hit and play the infield, but her status as a pitcher is uncertain. She did not pitch last Friday when the Rockets dropped a 7-1 game to Bath County in New Castle.
“She said her shoulder hurt,” said Lipes. “I know she won’t pitch against James River, and we’ll just have to wait and see how she feels after that. It will be up to her.”
Brittany Ratliff and freshman Ashley Dudding pitched against Bath, with Ratliff going five innings and Dudding finishing the game. It didn’t really matter who pitched for Craig on this day as J.J. Ford, the sophomore sensation for Bath, pitched a dominating game for the Chargers. She struck out 16 batters as Bath kept pace with James River for first in the district.
“She’s an excellent pitcher,” said Lipes. “Without her they’re just another team. I think James River has the best overall team in our district, but when Ford is on the mound Bath can beat anyone. She’s good.”
Craig had four hits, including a double by Dudding. Rafliff, Sarah Wood, and Jordyn Frango had singles and Wood knocked in Craig’s only run.
The Rockets are now 7-10 overall. Sophomore Oliva Cole was expected to get the start on the mound against James River.