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Lady Cats softball struggles to score in scrimmage

POSTED: August 13, 2014 10:20 a.m.
Adam Wynn/Barrow County News

Lady Wildcat Kaelani Wilson reacts to a play during Monday's scrimmage. Wilson, backed up by shortstop Briana Bryson, was one of Apalachee's defensive stars Monday.

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Rain could not hold off first-year head coach Matt Allen and the Lady Wildcats softball team as they promptly rescheduled Friday’s scrimmage against Union Grove to Monday evening at 5:55 p.m.

"It was a long time coming. Everybody was so excited on Friday, but we had the rain come get us on Friday and we had to think on the fly. It was good getting those early jitters out in a non-game situation, though," Apalachee varsity softball head coach Matt Allen said about Friday’s delay.

The good fortune with Monday’s weather did not extend to Apalachee’s luck on the field, though, as the Lady Cats dropped their unofficial opener 9-0 against one of the state’s best teams entering the 2014 season.

"I think it was crucial that we played a good team, and I’m a little bit biased being from down there, but they had an excellent team last season and didn’t lose much off of it," Allen noted. "They’re definitely…one of the front runners to get to Columbus and make some noise, and it was great that we were able to get out here and play one of those teams right off the bat and get a look to see where we’re at and what we need to do to be at that level."

Third baseman Haleigh Vernon started the 10-hit game for the Wolverines as she dropped a single to right-center field on a 1-2 pitch from 2013’s All-Region honoree Becca Meade.

Emily Colthorp bunted safely on a close play immediately after Vernon’s at bat giving the Wolverines two on with no outs. Meade would record one strikeout and get two defense-assisted outs in the first, but not until after a pair of pass balls to Brittani Crawford put Union Grove up 1-0 with just one out.

The Lady Cats got leadoff batter and second baseman Holly Janco as far as second base after she took a four-pitch walk and stole the next bag, but they were unable to bring her home when the Wolverines made three straight snags, including one that robbed Hannah Medlam of a clear base hit and RBI line drive down the third base line.

Meade started to find her groove consistently in the second inning when she sat down two batters on strikes and threw Lindsey Gilliam out at first. The leadoff for the inning, Emily Sweat, made it as far as third base, but Meade and company left her stranded just a few feet from home.

"I was really pleased with the way Becca pitched tonight. I thought she made several good pitches. We knew going in that she was going to be one of our stars this season as a team, and I think she has the ability to really carry us as a team and take us a long way," Allen lauded. "But, make no mistake about it, as the team goes, we’re going to have to play a little bit better behind her and get the bats going.

"I think Becca is definitely good at damage control, and that has to do with the fact that she can hit her spots," Allen added. "Let’s face it, there aren’t very many pitchers anymore who are going to strike out 15 batters a game. I think the offense has slowly caught up with the pitchers…but I think Becca left six batters on base in those four innings."

All told, the Apalachee starter earned seven strikeouts while giving up six hits and three earned runs in the first four innings.

Apalachee’s bats followed the same pattern for the second and third innings as they did in the first with an early hit and three untimely outs. Logan Leverette had a leadoff hit in the second before three quick outs followed by Janco’s one-out single in the third.

Janco once again stole second, this time on the wild throw back to first, but she was unable to come home due to two easily fielded pop fly balls.

Union Grove broke the game open in the top of the third inning when Crawford drove a two-run blast over the deep left-center field wall on a two out, 0-1 pitch.

The other run in that two-run homer was from Colthorp’s 4-1 walk.

"She really only made one bad pitch. She only had one error in location, and it wasn’t the home run, it was the batter before the home run. She left a 2-1 pitch up and out away and ended up walking her," Allen explained. "The home run ball she left was a great hit, and you have to tip your hat to the batter for making a great hit."

The Wolverines added a fourth run in the fourth when small ball helped advance Sweat home on Vernon’s single towards short, coupled with an error earlier in the inning that could have resulted in a double play or at least a force out at second.

The error in the fourth was the first of two errors committed by Apalachee on the night, but Coach Allen put those errors out of mind in lieu of accepting the positives.

"What we had tonight were errors of commission, not errors of omission. What I mean by that is we simply made the mistakes on ground balls and just didn’t field them cleanly. We were where we were supposed to be in defense…but we simply didn’t make the plays," Allen pointed out. "I can always live with errors of commission. We’ll just keep working drills in the field and get down what we need to."

Meade struck out three batters in the fourth for what would be her final inning.

Madison Whiteside came in to relieve a progressively wilder pitching Madison Moore in the bottom of the fourth, which saw Apalachee’s best shot at a run fall short when Savannah Clark was tagged out at third on a fielder’s choice single by Kaelani Wilson.

Apalachee would only send up the minimum three batters in each of the fifth and sixth innings.

"There were a couple of situations where we would’ve liked to force the issue, but I really wanted to see them swing the bat. Especially with the speed we have in our lineup, and we have several girls in our lineup who can get on bases and really put pressure on the defense, and small ball is going to be part of our repertoire, but I really wanted to see them swing the bat tonight," Allen explained. "Once we get the small ball involved, I think we’ll have a bit more of a diversified offense. Tonight we were pretty much one-dimensional.

"We were a little bit tight tonight, so I think once we loosen the bats up and get in the comfort zone, the bats will come alive," Allen added.

Allen also admitted that his lineup may see some changes, minor or drastic, in the next few weeks.

"My roster is pretty much set. My lineup is as wide open as any team I’ve ever coached," Allen acknowledged.

Depending on how the team starts hitting, those lineup changes could be coming sooner rather than later.

Not all is bad, though, with Apalachee’s hitting. The Lady Wildcats only earned three hits Monday, but they also only gave up three strikeouts. The vast majority of their outs were due to solid plays by Union Grove coupled with some unfortunate hit placement.

When Meade came out of the game for the final two innings, Union Grove more than doubled their runs on just a few crucial swings of the bat.

Skylor Mosel opened the fifth with a solo home run over the left-center field wall on the first pitch. Reliever Allison Cole found herself in a bases-loaded jam with nobody out, which she nearly worked herself clear of.

A pop fly to Briana Bryson at shortstop got the first bases-loaded out with a fielder’s choice to Kaelani Wilson recording the second out with a force play at home. With two outs, though, Jordan Barnett dropped a fly ball just inside the deepest part of the right field wall for two more runs.

Crawford added two more runs off of a two-run homerun to the exact same place she hit her first with one out in the sixth inning.

Sarah Henson came in to pitch for Cole and recorded Apalachee’s last two outs on straight Ks.

"If we’re going to get anywhere, we have to use our entire pitching staff this fall," Allen emphasized. "I’ve never really believed in riding one pitcher all the way through the season. I want my number one pitcher to be fresh, and I want my numbers two and three to be ready to go if number one can’t go during tournament season."

It was a rough outing, but no significant damage was done as the scrimmage game will be recorded as nothing more than a memorable practice. The Lady Wildcats do have a quick turnaround, though, with a tournament at Flowery Branch on Wednesday and Friday.

Apalachee faces Archer High School Wednesday evening at Flowery Branch and will then see Dacula Friday night. The next day, Apalachee will see Jefferson and Mill Creek in a double-header at Mill Creek High School in Hoschton.

 

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