Hiland Softball

Lady Hawks finally get on top early in win over Conotton Valley

An early lead spurs Lady Hawks to victory

For once this season, the Hiland Lady Hawks didn’t find themselves facing a deficit early in a game. It has been the MO of Jason Hazen Lady Hawks to fall behind early in the first inning, and although they have come back to win some games, they got a view from a different perspective when taking on Conotton Valley in a double-header Saturday, April 15 at Hiland High School.

In game one the Lady Hawks retired the Rockets in the top of the first and came in and posted a four-spot that carried them to an 8-4 victory.

“I told the girls I was proud of them because this is the first time we’ve got out of the first inning without giving up runs,” Hazen said. “The new came out and scored four runs to take charge. It’s kind of nice to be in that position for a change. We talk every day about playing ahead. You get tired of playing from behind, and if we can get ahead we can be a little more aggressive in how we approach the game.”

Senior Brittany Wengerd got the party started right off the bat, whacking a double to lead-off the bottom of the first inning for the home team. After Hannah Gerber popped out, Nikki Keim reached on an error, and then with two outs, Bryn McVicker lifted a fly ball to left that went for an error and brought in a run. Ashley Weaver and Amber Yoder then stroked run-scoring singles and Hiland had itself a little 4-0 lead.

Hiland built the lead to 6-0 and again it was Brittany Wengerd who got things going. Wengerd singled and then two straight Rockets errors set the table for McVicker to swat a two-run single to the wall in center.

Conotton Valley scored their first run in the third, but Hiland got it right back when Amber Yoder walked and Gerber stroked a single to bring her in.

The Rockets countered with single tallies in the fourth and fifth innings to get within three at 7-3, but Gerber came up in the bottom of the fifth and hammered a pitch over the wall in left for a home run.

“It feels great,” said Gerber of her shot to left that cleared the fence by a few feet. “I thought it could happen, but I never thought it would happen this early in the season.”

While her smile was as wide as could be as she rounded third and headed for home, where a mob of teammates awaited her arrival to give her the helmet-pounding, back-slapping celebration that is the reward for players fortunate enough to swat a home run, when Gerber finally did arrive her teammates were a little too excited, and in the process bloodied her lip.

That seemed to matter little following the game, as Gerber was more than willing to go through a little pain for such a celebration and a feeling as that.

“If that is the price I have to pay for a home run, I’ll take it,” Gerber said with a laugh.

She was also very busy down at third base where she commanded the hot corner quite well in helping Hiland to its fourth win against eight defeats.

“Coming off a season like we had last year and this year have been a completely different mentality,” Gerber said. “Everything and everyone seems different, and there is a whole new attitude around here and we are really having a lot of fun and we are getting better.”

The Rockets got one more in the sixth, but Keim stayed focused on the mound when she got in trouble, and stranded seven runners on base in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to keep Conotton Valley at bay. She sailed through the final inning to secure the win.

“Nikki did a nice job of limiting the damage (in the win),” Hazen said. “She continues to do a solid job on the mound. She made a couple of freshman mistakes, but she has shown poise.”

Game two was not as much fun as Conotton Valley got out the hitting sticks, took advantage of some Hiland miscues and rolled to a 12-2 win.

But Hazen said a young team will experience ups and downs, and overcoming those kinds of inconsistencies is what makes a program better.

“We swung the bats well, but defensively we have to make the routine plays on a more consistent basis,” Hazen said. “We had some routine plays that we didn’t make and we had some mental errors that are unacceptable.”

Keim went the distance in the opening win, scattering nine hits, allowing a pair of walks while striking out three. Offensively on the day, Wengerd recorded four hits and scored three runs, Keim scored three times, Gerber hit the home run and drove home three, McVicker knocked homer a pair and Ashley Weaver banged out four hits.

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