The first inning of Hiland’s softball game against Newcomerstown Monday, May 2 at Hiland High School may have been a microcosm of the 2016 season for the lady Hawks.
After starting the year at 2-3, Hiland has fallen on tough times, dropping its last 15 straight contests, some by big numbers, some by small numbers.
This was one game that got away from the Lady Hawks in the same type of fashion that head coach Ellie Beam has seen a lot of this season. The first inning of the 8-1 loss to the Trojans certainly was one that set the tone for the rest of the night, an evening in which Hiland committed a couple of key miscues and never could get the bats going against Newcomerstown hurler Riley Bricker.
“We just couldn’t hit anything out of the infield all night long,” said Beam. “We didn’t have many quality at bats all night.”
An Ashley Weaver third-inning single was all the Lady Hawks could muster against Bricker, but what really stung was that Hiland simply gifted the Trojans too many runs early on to stay within striking distance.
In the first, Hiland pitcher Brittany Wengerd loaded the bases, but actually didn’t deserve that fate. A pair of slow, seeing-eye singles through the holes at second and third put the first two runners on, and a cue-shot spinner landed in front of shortstop Hannah Gerber that she hesitated on and failed to record an out. Wengerd then got a force out at home and a short fly to center that left the bases loaded, and then worked the hitter to two strikes, and then struck out the hitter for the third out. However, the ball glanced off of catcher Megan Kandel’s glove, allowing everyone to move up a base. A single to left later, and the Trojans had a 3-0 lead when it should have been none.
“That‘s kind of where we’ve been lately,” said Beam. “We’ve got to work on our competitive edge. Right now we seem to have become complacent and they are OK with the way we are playing. That isn’t the way it is. We want the girls to understand that isn’t the way we need or want to play.”
Newcomerstown tacked on another run in the second on three hits, but a perfectly executed relay helped dampen the rally. With runners on first and second, a solid shot to center fell, but center-fielder Lindsey Yoder fired a strike to Wengerd, who was the cut-off going home.
The run scored, but Wengerd astutely snagged the throw from Yoder and fired to second base to Gerber, who quickly slapped a tag on the runner scampering back for the out.
The game was still not completely out of control, but in the fourth, with reliever Cheyanne Schrock on the mound, those inconsistencies struck again. A pair of walks to lead the inning off from the usually sharp Schrock put runners on, but she appeared ready to work out of the jam. However, a pair of low pitches scooted past Kandel, allowing both runners to score.
Newcomerstown would add two more runs in the sixth inning, on three hits and an error.
Kandel and Erin Weaver would walk to begin the final inning for Hiland, and Kandel would eventually score Hiland’s lone run on an RBI ground-out off the bat of Amber Yoder.
There were some good things, but too many inconsistencies and mental mistakes added up to the loss for the Lady Hawks.
“This acceptance of not playing hard and accepting that this is just how we play is not where we want to be,” said Beam. “I wish we could get them to believe in themselves, to play up to the potential that we see in them. It’s frustrating because they are such great kids, and we (coaches) really think they can be so much better than we are playing right now.”
Hiland celebrated senior night, honoring Kandel, Lindsey Yoder and Mikayla Ryan a pregame ceremony. All three seniors play integral roles for Hiland.