West Holmes Softball

11-run first-inning outburst sends Lady Knights by Beaver Local 17-1 as tourney play kicks off

Things were looking up from the get-go for Natalie Martin and the Lady Knights

One early inning doesn’t usually make or break a tournament game. Normally there are countless moments in time throughout a game that teams can point at that could have changed the outcome that are peppered throughout the latter innings.

And while the outcome may have been the same when West Holmes hosted Beaver Local in the Div. II opening sectional tournament game Saturday, May 5, everyone agreed that the Lady Knights’ 11-run first inning was the defining moment of the game that saw the Beavers’ send a very good pitcher to the mound to face the Lady Knights.

And while Beavers’ hurler Bailee Rinestine threw hard and threw a respectable game, the Lady Knights’ high-octane offense jumped all over her to produce a 17-1 victory.

“We had a game in the first inning,” said West Holmes coach Jaime Chenevey. “We just had a terrific approach today, and we came out ready to roll, and we really built a lot of momentum off that first inning. And we have also talked at length about hitting level line drives. Maddie’s ball was a line shot that just happened to get out, but it really set the table for us.”

After West Holmes pitcher Morganne Balder got some sensational defensive help on a superb play by third-baseman Jazz Knapp to end the top of the first inning with a runner in scoring position, West Holmes came in and went about destroying any hopes the Beavers had of winning.

It all got kick-started by freshman lead-off hitter Maddie Woods, whose long drive to left clanked off the top of the wall and fell across for a laser home run that sent the Lady Knights into a frenzy.

“I don’t think I’ve ever hit one off the top of the fence like that,” Woods said. “Coach told us we needed to be up here at a high level of intensity to start the game, and we really brought it to them today.”

From that point on, it was a showcase of offensive weaponry for West Holmes, as the runs started racking up in a huge hurry. Callie Cline singled, as did Natalie Martin, and Knapp rifled one to right to produce a run. Maris Hoffee then crushed a ball to the wall in right-center to make it 4-0. After Brooke Workman took a pitch off the elbow, Samantha rogers singled in a run. Even the outs were loud at this point, as eight-hitter Becca Vales smoked a line shot right to the center-fielder for the first out of the inning. Savannah Rogers laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt, bring around the top of the order with two out and two on. Woods doubled home a run, Cline drew a walk and Martin singled again to produce a score. Knapp would later single and Allen’s scorcher went right through the second baseman to produce runs 10 and 11.

Fifteen Lady Knights went to the dish in the first inning, Rinestine threw a whopping 53 pitches and that made for a comfortable lead for Balder and the defense.

“Their kid really handled herself well, a lot better than a lot of pitchers would have,” Chenevey said of Rinestine. “And it wasn’t like she was throwing BP out there. She was throwing hard, but we just timed her up and went to hitting and didn’t stop.”

After Balder sailed through the second, it took Rinestine 11 pitches, three batters and about 86 seconds to get through the second unscathed.

Balder crushed it again in the third, getting a nifty double play from Vales at short to end the inning, and West Holmes went at it again at the plate.

The four-run third inning began with Woods slashing a single and stealing second base. Cline delivered an RBI single, advanced on a groundout my Martin and scored on Knapp’s shot to center.

Allen walked and Workman sent a single to center to plate two more runs.

Balder worked around an error in the fourth, and the Lady Knights tacked on two more insurance runs in the bottom of the inning when Savannah Rogers led off with a single, moved to third on Wood’s second double and both runners came home in Cline’s two-run triple to the wall in center.

Balder lost the shut-out in the top of the fifth, on her own error, a hit batter and two straights singles by Tori Bowersock and Leah Pancake. Pancake had a great day at the plate, hitting the ball on the nose in all three at bats, but it was a far cry from anywhere near enough thanks to the huge outburst in the first for West Holmes.

“We have talked a lot about not letting teams get into feel-good situations or gaining momentum,” Chenevey said. “We wanted to take them out of things as quickly as we could, because teams like that can be dangerous. I think we pretty much did that in a big way early on with that first inning outburst.”

The top of the order was simply brutal for West Holmes, going 12-of-15, scoring 10 runs and driving in eight. Woods went a perfect 4-of-4 on the day, scoring four runs and driving in a pair while collecting a massive nine total bases. Cline continued to stay red-hot, pounding out three hits in as many at bats, scoring three times while driving in three, Martin socked a pair of hits in four at bats, while Knapp went 3-of-4, scoring once and allowing pinch-runner Trista Poquette to score two times, while driving in a pair. Balder went the distance, allowing the one unearned run on four hits, striking out four while walking one and hitting a batter.

The win advances west Holmes (15-8) as they take a step closer to what they hope will be a district title and maybe more.

“You can’t take anyone for granted at this point,” Chenevey said. “This is win or go home time. I liked that eve our outs were for the most part quality at bats. We did things the way they needed to be done today.”

Chenevey told her players following the game that this tournament ride will go as long as they want to put in the kind of effort they gave in this win, and while the competition will undoubtedly get tougher, than Beaver Local (6-17), the effort and focus is what Chenevey liked.

The Lady Knights coach also praised Balder for doing exactly what she had to do to limit any kind of sustained scoring opportunities throughout the game.

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