The softball season has its own learning curve at times. For the Hayes Pacers, the process took just two games.
After back-to-back losses to Liberty and Olentangy last week, the Pacers have won three straight, including Friday’s 8-3 non-league victory over the visiting Dublin Coffman Shamrocks at Pacer Park.
“We learned a lot playing Liberty and Olentangy back-to-back,” Hayes coach Mark Thomas said. “Ever since those two games, when we’re down, we don’t put our heads down and when we’re up, we’re not overconfident. We’re playing well right now.”
Those lessons paid off handsomely for Hayes (3-2) on Friday. Dublin Coffman (3-4) pounced on the Pacers early, scoring all three of its runs in the first inning, putting the pressure on right from the start.
But Hayes responded by scoring four times in the bottom of the inning while getting a solid defensive effort plus a strong outing from sophomore pitcher Mikayla Cooper.
“We told them when they came off the field in the first, ‘Hey, we gave up three runs, now let’s go out and score four,’” Thomas said. “We played some good defense behind Mikayla, Mikayla did a nice job in the circle and we’re hitting the ball pretty well right now.”
The offense struck first, as Cooper opened with a double to right center and scored on a pair of wild pitches by Coffman starter Jordan Mathias. Sophomore catcher Kaitlyn Woerner then reached on an error at shortstop, but was thrown out at third on ball four to junior outfielder Amber Frey trying to stretch a wild pitch into an extra base.
That didn’t stop Hayes from continuing its aggressive base running. Frey stole second afterward, and sophomore designated player Chandler Fields reached on an infield single when Coffman’s defense failed to catch Frey in a rundown.
Junior shortstop Alaina Manor then reached second on a two-base error by the Shamrock first baseman, allowing Frey to score and Fields to take third. One out later, Sophomore third baseman Rebekah Hire slapped a single up the middle, scoring the two runners.
After the inning, Cooper settled in, giving up just one hit and two walks the rest of the way. The sophomore finished the night allowing just two earned runs, three hits and three walks while striking out seven.
But the offense wasn’t done after the opening frame. Fields reached on another Coffman error in the third, took second on a wild pitch, went to third on a bunt single by Manor and scored on a second wild pitch with two out.
Hayes pretty much secured the win in the fifth. Woerner hit a leadoff single off Coffman pitcher Haley Marshall’s foot and took second directly after on a wild pitch. Frey drew a walk, but two outs followed.
Thomas then sent junior Phoebe Lewis in to pinch hit for senior outfielder Amber Arthur, and took a first-pitch strike, but the ball glanced off the Coffman catcher’s glove, allowing both runners to move up on the passed ball.
Two pitches later, Lewis hit an 0-2 pitch down the right field line in between three Coffman defenders to drive home both Woerner and Frey, giving Hayes a 7-3 lead.
“In the fifth inning, Phoebe came in cold off the bench and got us a good two-run single,” Thomas said. “She did a great job in a pinch-hitting role, and Rebekah got us that two-run single in the first when we were down. We had some good clutch hits tonight.”
Cooper capped the offense herself in the sixth, blasting a two-out solo home run to right-center field off Coffman reliever Alex Meisner-Rathbun, then retired the side in order in the top of the seventh to end it.
Cooper, Woerner and Fields each had two hits, Cooper collecting both of Hayes’ two extra-base hits with one RBI. Lewis and Hire added their clutch two-run singles, and Manor added her third-inning base hit.
Mathias suffered the loss for Coffman, allowing five unearned runs in three innings with two walks and three strikeouts. Shamrocks catcher Hannah Sabatino had two of the team’s three singles on the day.