Cleaver’s solo blast helps New Kent upend defending state champion Tabb
New Kent’s Lady Trojans enter the 2019 season with a goal of beating everybody twice on their schedule. The Mar. 12 home opener saw the defending Group 3A State Champions, Tabb Lady Tigers, enter the contest without a loss in 651 days. That changed Tuesday afternoon.
Big offensive plays capped off by a Haley Cleaver home run propelled New Kent to a 4-2 victory over Tabb in the Bay Rivers District contest.
New Kent played well early on behind the pitching of Gracie Ellis. Ellis controlled the mound with eight strikeouts through the first four innings. But Tabb began figuring out the style of the Lady Trojan hurler, as Emily Angel reached base and stole two additional ones. Teammate Gracie Roberts base knock brought home Angel and provided the visitors a 1-0 lead. Roberts followed suit crossing home plate to up the advantage to 2-0.
New Kent took advantage of Tabb’s defense in the fifth inning. A dropped ball by Lady Tiger outfielder Kaitlin Horton allowed New Kent baserunners to advance. The result saw New Kent’s Haley Hyndshaw score from second to cut the deficit in half (2-1). Another drop by the Tabb outfielder resulted in Amya Evans trotting across home plate to tie the score at two.
From there, Cleaver took the momentum from the visitors in the sixth inning. The senior delivered a crushing home run to give New Kent their first lead of the day. An insurance run later in the inning provided the final margin in the contest.
After the game, Lady Trojan head coach Maria Bates talked about opening the season with a win over a tough opponent.
“Tabb is the defending state champion and they won on their hitting and not necessarily their pitching,” she said. “We knew we had to play a perfect game defensively and just keep hitting the ball.
“We were hitting the ball in the first few innings and could not get the score because of their defense,” Bates continued. “We just kept telling the girls to keep playing and eventually they would make a mistake, and they did.”
“Now, we know what we can do and it’s a momentum boost heading into this three-game week,” she concluded.