With their first tournament game looming the next day, the West Holmes Lady Knights welcomed a home game against Ashland on Monday, May 7. The game was crucial, not because it was a key contest fraught with meaning, but rather because the Lady Knights had not played for the past week. Thus they were eager to get back at it against anyone just to regain a feel for the game before hosting John Glenn the next night.
While it was far from a masterpiece, the Lady Knights’ 8-4 victory over the Arrows served as a perfect segue to preparing for its sectional opener.
“We hadn’t played in a week, and I think that showed today because we weren’t exactly sharp, but it was important to get a game in before our first tournament game,” West Holmes coach Jaime Chenevey said. “We needed this in a big way.”
While it wasn’t inspired softball, what it did look like was a very workman-like effort from West Holmes, which scored in every inning but one, played nearly flawless defense in support of winning pitcher Morganne Balder, and after getting reprimanded by their coach early for leaving too many runners on base, left very few on base over the final five innings.
“I would have liked to see us do a little bit more offensively, but overall we improved in some areas we wanted to improve in,” Chenevey said.
The first was cleaning up the errors, which haunted them the prior two games, both close losses to Indian Valley and Waynedale in which five errors in each contest provided plenty of free runs for their opponents.
The second was the runners left in scoring position. After leaving four on in the first two innings, Chenevey addressed that scenario with her team and they responded by cleaning up the base paths at a very healthy clip the rest of the way.
“We accomplished those things, we had better at-bats as the game went along and we took advantage of some situational play with our aggressive and smart base running,” Chenevey said. “Although it wasn’t a throttling, it was a good, solid ball game for us.”
Balder allowed a single tally in the top of the first on two base hits, but her teammates got it right back with a plus-one in the bottom, and that came courtesy of a home run from catcher and senior Natalie Martin after Morgan Allen had doubled.
In the second West Holmes loaded the bases on a pair of walks and Jessica Yabroff’s single, but Maddie Woods’ hit popped out, and Callie Cline grounded out to end the inning.
Ashland then came in and plated three runs when Tiffany McCullough hit an absolute laser to left that left the park at light speed.
Trailing 4-2, West Holmes answered decisively in the bottom of the inning to tie it. Jazz Knapp doubled to center on a ball that missed going out by mere inches, and after Lexi Martin stroked a single to left, Yabroff doubled home both runners to tie the score.
“It was nice to see us respond quickly,” Chenevey said of the quick rally to tie it. “We have had times when we’ve waited too long to do that, so it was encouraging.”
Over the final four innings, Balder only got in trouble once in the fifth when the Arrows loaded the bases with one out, but a nice play by Jessie Keen on a line drive in which she doubled up the runner at first ended that threat.
Meanwhile the Lady Knights simply kept tacking on runs.
West Holmes took the lead for good in the fourth when Woods laced a single to left and tore around to third when the left fielder misplayed the ball. After Allen drew her second walk, Callie Cline hammered a ball to deep center to score Woods.
The Lady Knights added to the lead with a lone run in the fifth when Knapp was hit by a pitch and pinch-ran for by Taryn Grassbaugh, who advanced to second on a Lexi Martin sacrifice bunt and scored when Liberty Arnold singled to right.
West Holmes got a pair of insurance runs in the sixth to put some distance between themselves and the Arrows. Woods and Allen each drew walks, advanced on a wild pitch and scored when Cline hammered a ball to the wall in right center.
The win improved West Holmes to 14-9 overall, and they currently stand at 7-2 in Ohio Cardinal Conference play.
Balder tossed a complete game, scattering seven hits while walking a pair. Hailey Rogers took the loss, throwing five innings and allowing eight runs on eight hits. In a fast-pitch softball oddity, there was not one strikeout recorded in the game.