PCA’s top pitcher hurt in 4-1 loss to River Oaks

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Porters Chapel shortstop Annie Beaugh (3) makes a late tag on River Oaks’ Tess Osborne in the third inning Monday. Osborne was safe on the play, and eventually scored to help River Oaks to a 4-1 win. (Meredith SpencerThe Vicksburg Post)

[9/14/04]Lauren Johnson did what she always does. She danced between first and second base, coaxed a bad throw out of the catcher, and made a daring break for second.

This time, though, there was no reward, only heartbreak. Johnson slid headfirst, was called out, then got up and called for help. Someone else asked for an ambulance.

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For Porters Chapel Academy, Superman was down.

“That was pretty scary. She’s the leader on our team, our number one pitcher, our leading RBI person,” PCA coach Mike Grzanich said. “You never want to see something happen like that, especially a neck injury. It was a scary moment for everybody. Not for softball’s sake, but just for the person’s sake.”

Johnson, who is hitting nearly .650 and has pitched 18 of PCA’s 19 wins this season, jammed her neck against the arm of River Oaks shortstop Ainsley Moore on the play. She suffered an apparent neck stinger and was taken off the field as a precaution, but was not seriously injured.

Johnson was in good spirits and wanted to return to Bazinsky Park while she was awaiting treatment at the hospital, Grzanich said. Still, the injury was a frightening moment for the Lady Eagles (19-7) and overshadowed their 4-1 loss to River Oaks on Monday.

“She wanted to come out here and pitch again. We’re thinking everything is all right,” Grzanich said. “I was talking to her and she had feeling in her toes and arms, and everything was fine. That’s what I was concerned with.”

PCA begins the North State tournament on Wednesday at Tunica. The Lady Eagles will face Winona Christian in the first round at 3 p.m., and will advance to Saturday’s second round with a win.

Kory Miller pitched well in Johnson’s absence Monday, allowing four hits and one earned run in four innings. River Oaks (10-9) tagged her for three runs in the third to take the lead for good, although the Lady Mustangs had just one hit in the inning.

Candice Houston hit a fly ball to center that was misplayed, allowing a run to score and Houston to advance to third. She later scored on a passed ball.

“I thought they did well. They finished the game. Just one misplayed ball kind of changed the story of this game,” Grzanich said.

If Johnson can’t play on Wednesday, Miller will be called on to enter the circle again. She said she’ll be ready, unlike her unexpected duty against River Oaks.

“I think I did as good as I could have done in that situation. I was expecting (Johnson) to be fine,” said Miller, who struck out two and walked three. “I’ll try not to think about (the tournament) too much. Try to say I’m going to do good.'”

No matter how well Miller pitches, the Lady Eagles could still use Johnson’s bat to make a deep run in the state playoffs.

PCA managed only one hit against River Oaks an RBI double by Annie Beaugh in the third inning and lacked the rally-starting ability that Johnson provides.

“Any time she gets a hit, we try to step up. And she usually does get a hit. We just try to follow what she does,” Beaugh said.

Some of PCA’s troubles on Monday may have stemmed from Houston’s pitching, however. She struck out four, walked one, and shut down the Lady Eagles for the second time this season. She threw a one-hitter against them on Aug. 31.

“They’ve got a good pitcher. She keeps us off-balance. But I don’t believe we’ve played our best ball against her,” Grzanich said. “I don’t know what the answer is to her, but we definitely have not played our best ball against her.”