It may have been freezing cold when Hiland hosted Garaway in Inter-Valley Conference softball, but it didn’t take long for Garaway to heat up. Thanks to a combination of rain, snow and freezing temps, the Lady Hawks and Lady Pirates had a lengthy hiatus from the softball field. While Mother Nature howled, the Lady Pirates were hard at work in the gym and at their hitting facility.
“During practices I felt we were determined to get done what was asked of us,” team captain Sarah Billman said when asked about the long lay-off. “Despite feeling disappointed when our games were cancelled, we all knew those games would get rescheduled, and we’ll have tough weeks ahead of us.”
Against Hiland, Garaway showed no sign of rust as the Pirates scored three times in the top of the first inning and then blew the game wide open with a 10-run third frame to win handily 15-4.
In the first Chelsi Rothacher was hit by a pitch to lead off the game. Cassy Donaldson followed with a single. With runners at first and second, Kassidy Reidenbach poked a bunt down the first-base line. Reidenbach reached safely when the Hawk defender pulled her foot off the bag at first base. Rothacher, who was rounding third with a full head of steam, continued home on the play, drawing a throw to the plate. Rothacher crossed safely as the throw from first bounced away from the Hiland catcher. Donaldson also hustled home while Reidenbach ended up at second base.
Up 2-0, Emma Gee entered the game as a courtesy runner for Reidenbach. Hiland pitcher Nikole Keim picked up the first out of the inning with a fly ball to left. Kallie Regula followed with an infield hit. Gee scored from second when the Hiland defense made a throwing error on the play, putting Garaway up 3-0. Keim finally worked her way out of the inning with a pair of pop-ups.
Helping herself at the plate, Keim led off the bottom half of the first for Hiland with a double to right field. Britt Troyer moved Keim over to third with a sacrifice bunt. Hannah Gerber came up clutch with a single up the middle, driving in Keim. Reidenbach struck out the next two batters to end the inning with Garaway holding a 3-1 lead.
After a scoreless second inning, Garaway blew the game open with a 10-run inning in the third. The Pirate offense brought ten batters to the plate before Hiland could get the first out. Garaway had nine singles in the inning along with a three-run homer from Reidenbach.
Reidenbach and Zoe Johnson led off the third with back-to-back singles. Another single, this one from Regula, drove in the first run. Johnson scored on a wild pitch as Regula moved over to second base. A Hiland error allowed Madison Steiner to reach safely with Regula ending up at third base. Regula scored when the throw on a pick-off attempt ended up in left field. Kori Gutheridge lined a single to left field, scoring Steiner for the fourth run of the inning. Sarah Billman singled to put runners on the corners. Another Hiland error allowed Mya Gee to reach safely while Gutheridge scored. The Pirates were now up 8-0 with the top of the order coming to the plate.
When asked how the Pirates stayed sharp during the long lay-off, Billman said, “We worked on our overall fitness by doing workouts the first 45 minutes of practices. We also worked on situations, our fundamentals, being smarter at the plate and knowing our zone.”
The practice plan evidently paid off as the Garaway offense continued to hammer the softball. The Pirates had runners at second and third, five runs across the plate and still no outs. Chelsi Rothacher stepped to the plate and drilled a single to left field, driving in courtesy runner Jenna Shoup and Mya Gee. Donaldson followed with a single. Reidenbach, who had started the inning, stepped to the plate once again. Sitting on a 1-0 count, Reidenbach lofted the next pitch into the Hiland Hawks scoreboard in left field. The three-run blast capped off a 10-run outburst, proving to be unlucky for the Hawks as they fell behind 13-1.
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“We just can’t seem to stay away from the huge innings,” Hiland coach Jason Hazen said. “Offensively I thought we took some really good swings. We weren’t getting cheated, and while we might have swung at some balls early in the count, I liked our aggressiveness. However, we can’t continue to give outs away on defense. That has killed us in all three of our games so far, and we have allowed our opponents to have that one big inning. We probably gave them eight outs in that third tonight.”
After the third inning, Garaway went with a younger lineup. Hiland was able to get one run back in the fourth when Hannah Gerber reached on an errant throw after a dropped third strike. It was the only Garaway error of the game and the first of the season. Gerber ended up scoring later on a ground out.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Hiland was facing an early end to the game. Down 13-2, the Hawks needed two runs to extend the game. A lead-off walk gave the Hawks hope. After two quick outs from Pirate pitcher Kori Gutheridge, it looked like Garaway was headed for an early trip back to the bus to warm up after a cold game. Hiland decided to put that trip on hold. Britt Troyer singled to drive in Sarah Custer. A walk to Hannah Gerber put runners at first and second. Lexi Klein hit a soft grounder up the middle. The ball was fielded cleanly, but Gerber slid into second base just ahead of the force-out attempt. Troyer hustled around third and scored ahead of the throw to the plate, extending the game for at least another inning.
The Pirates were able to get those two runs back in the top half of the sixth inning. Billman drew a one-out walk. After a fly ball for out number two, Emma Gee was hit by a pitch, putting runners on first and second. With the Pirate runners going on contact, Janell Mast looped a single down the right-field line. Billman and Emma Gee both scored on the single while Mast was thrown out trying to reach third base, ending the inning.
Gutheridge worked a 1-2-3 sixth inning with two strikeouts to end the game. The Pirates improve to 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the IVC South. Garaway will travel to Sandy Valley on Friday to take on the Cardinals.