October 13, 2012
Monday night’s loss to Fairbanks seemed to do the Liberty softball team a world of good.
The Patriots played with poise and confidence while the host Hayes Pacers had their troubles, and Liberty defeated Hayes 4-0 in non-league action Tuesday at Pacer Park.
“I noticed that last night when we played Fairbanks,” Liberty coach Bob Lee said. “They had played a game and they seemed more confident against us last night, and tonight, I thought we played with confidence. I thought having that game under our belts helped us.”
What Liberty (1-1) did best is take advantage of Hayes’ (0-1) mistakes. The Pacers, playing their first regular-season game, didn’t look like the experienced squad of a season ago, committing six errors and adding a couple mental lapses that helped stoke the Patriots’ confidence.
“It might have hurt a little bit, but with six returning starters, we can’t use that as an excuse,” Hayes coach Mark Thomas said. “There’s no way we should have played like that. Give Liberty credit. They put the ball in play and made us have those errors, but there’s no way, I think, we should have lost this game.”
Pitching also helped the Liberty cause. Sophomore right-hander Katie Flanagan allowed just three hits and two walks while striking out four in 4 2/3 innings for the win. Freshman Kristen Adkins worked the final 2 1/3 for the Patriots, and retired all seven batters she faced while striking out three.
“I was pleased with Katie’s outing,” Lee said. “She pitched a very smart game and kept them off-balance, and then bringing in Kristen gives us a different kind of pitcher with more velocity. That’s a tough adjustment for a team.”
Hayes sophomore right-hander Mikayla Cooper had trouble in her first outing of the year and suffered the loss, allowing two earned runs, five hits and four walks over seven innings while striking out six, despite retiring 10 of the final 11 batters she faced.
“This was not her best outing,” Thomas said. “At times she pitched well and at times she struggled. I think they got into her head and she over pitched a little bit. She finished up very well, but the start was shaky. Yes, she‘s seen better days.”
Patriot sophomore shortstop Madison Kadlic led off the game with a walk. Freshman third baseman Bailey Ankrim put down a sacrifice bunt, but the throw to second was low and in the dirt, and Kadlic was safe at second.
Senior catcher Aoife Duffy then hit a one-out grounder on the left side that deflected off the shortstop’s glove, loading the bases, and junior first baseman Kayla Pfaff lifted a bloop single into shallow center field to score Kadlic, but Ankrim was thrown out at third.
Meanwhile, Hayes had trouble getting much of anything off Flanagan, as the sophomore retired her first four batters and faced just one over the minimum through the first three innings.
“Flanagan put the ball where we could hit it, but we just couldn’t make contact,” Thomas said. “We had some opportunities. We got some kids on base, but we just couldn’t execute.”
In the fourth, Flanagan helped her own cause, blasting a 2-1 pitch over the left field fence for her first home run of the year.
“That was a surprise,” Lee said. “I’ve never seen her hit a ball that far before. I’m giving her a game ball because that might have been her first home run ever.”
Liberty extended the inning when sophomore Hannah Worth walked and junior Rosalyn Ransaw reached on a sacrifice attempt that turned into a bunt single when the Hayes defense failed to cover first base, sending Worth to second.
One out later, Worth moved to third on an error on a catcher’s pickoff attempt, then scored on a double steal on the next pitch. The throw home trying to catch Worth got past Hayes backstop Kaitlyn Woerner, and Ransaw took third.
Ankrim walked and stole second on a Hayes mental error, but the bleeding appeared to stop when Cooper cleanly fielded Liberty sophomore Sarah Drosos’ squeeze bunt. Cooper threw home to catch Ransaw, but the throw was low, and Ransaw scored on the error.
Hayes’ best opportunity came in the bottom of the fourth, when Woerner ripped a hard-hit single off Ankrim’s glove and took second on a two-out infield hit off Flanagan’s right leg by junior Abbey Frey, but both runners were stranded. Hayes had just one more base runner the rest of the game.
Pfaff led the Patriots with two hits and one RBI. Flanagan’s homer was her lone hit of the game, and Drosos and Ransaw added a single each.
Frey had two of Hayes’ three hits. Woerner’s fifth-inning single was the other.