Hayes softball’s trip to Florida paid dividends — including one in its first game back in Ohio.
With rain and cold in Delaware County last week, the Pacers won five of six outings in Cocoa Beach, Florida, then scored five runs in the first three innings of their Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division opener against Big Walnut before finishing with a 5-1 victory Wednesday in Sunbury.
“Our Florida trip really helped us out,” Hayes coach Mark Thomas said. “Going 5-1 down there and going 12 innings against (Mount Washington, Ky.) Bullitt East, who’s ranked fifth in their state, gave our girls some pride and some confidence, and we came out today and got the job done.”
“Delaware is a good team, but I told my girls afterward they’re going to have to play us again,” Big Walnut coach Jeff Hatfield said. “Our division is extremely tough with New Albany, Delaware, Olentangy and Kilbourne and we all have good pitchers, so it’s possible the winner of the division will have three losses. The thing for us is we have to keep fighting.”
Hayes’ (6-1, 1-0 OCC Capital) experience helped it take control early. The Pacers opened with a single run in the first inning and added four tallies in the third.
“Again, the key was us getting six games down in Florida,” Thomas said. “A lot of teams only played a couple times here, but we were able to get six games in. We played well there, and we’re hoping it carries us the rest of the season.”
Big Walnut (3-2, 1-1) was poised to strike all game long, putting runners on in six of its seven innings, but had trouble getting them around.
The Golden Eagles had five hits in the game, but stranded nine runners, including seven in scoring position. In the middle innings, Big Walnut had six runners in scoring position with less than two outs, but could only score one run.
“We had one inning that really hurt us,” Hatfield said. “We had a big win last night and we hoped it would carry over to tonight. I thought we hit (Hayes sophomore Madi) Huck just about all night, but we just couldn’t string a few together. A hit here or there and we’re right back in the game.”
Hayes started the scoring in the first. Senior Lindsey Blair drew a one-out walk and took second on a single by senior Mikayla Cooper. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch, and after a strikeout, Blair scored on a passed ball.
In the third, junior Jordan Osborne, Blair and Cooper loaded the bases on consecutive singles, and after a fielder’s choice off the bat of Huck retired Osborne at home, sophomore Kaitlynn Schuette reached on an infield single to score Blair as the throw home was low and got past Big Walnut freshman catcher Jess Coletta.
Cooper rounded third and came home, Coletta recovered the ball and flipped to pitcher Kate Petty covering the plate, but with Petty blocking the dish, Cooper slid into the base safely, but also into Petty’s leg. The Golden Eagle left-hander was injured, but shook off the pain and continued to pitch.
Hayes senior Chandler Fields then sent a single up the middle, scoring both freshman courtesy runner Kamryn Sutherland and Schuette.
After that, however, Petty settled in, allowing just three hits in her final 4 2/3 innings with five strikeouts.
“Kate was pretty dominant after that play,” Hatfield said. “She settled in nice. It was an emotional inning and an emotional play, but it’s softball. It is what it is.”
“After her injury, Petty was on fire,” Thomas said. “She came back with some fire and some attitude, which was good for her. She pitched well in those last four innings.”
Even with Petty’s brilliant final innings, the Golden Eagles just could not string hits together. Big Walnut left three runners on, two in scoring position in the first three innings, but seemed ready strike in the fourth.
Senior Hayley Apple led off with a walk and senior Brooke Hatfield hit a grounder to third for an infield single as the Hayes fielder at second was late getting to the bag. The inning fizzled out on a fielder’s choice, a groundout and a strikeout.
Big Walnut finally scored in the fifth when senior Sara Petty singled and senior Shelbie Borchers reached on a sacrifice and two errors that put Sara Petty at third. One out later, senior Shaye Kuhlman grounded out to second, allowing Sara Petty to score, but a foul out ended the frame.
Hatfield and senior Katelyn Cheadle each had one-out singles in the sixth, but another strikeout and ground out ended that threat, and in the seventh, Borchers reached on a throwing error, but was stranded at second after a pop out on a bunt try, a ground out, and a fly out to right.
Huck earned the win, allowing one unearned run, six hits and a walk with four strikeouts in seven innings for Hayes. Osborne, Blair, Cooper and Fields had two singles each, Fields driving in two runs, and Schuette had the other Pacer hit and added one RBI.
Kate Perry took the loss, allowing nine hits and a walk while fanning 10 Hayes batters in her seven innings. Kuhlman, Apple, Hatfield, Cheadle, Kate Petty and Sara Petty each had one single, Kuhlman with the team’s lone RBI.
•A recap of the rest of Wednesday’s softball action, along baseball, will be published in the Friday’s Gazette.