Olentangy softball coach Alan Tharp will freely admit his team’s hitting the last few games has not been what it was at the start of the year, but Monday, the Braves had plenty of hits — stringing a few together was the bigger problem.
Olentangy had at least one runner on base in every inning and outhit visiting Mount Vernon 8-3, but the Yellow Jackets knocked in a run in the second inning and slipped past the Braves 1-0 in Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division play at Olentangy High School.
“We’re getting girls on base,” Tharp said. “We’re getting them on and getting them over, but we’re not getting them in. We’re not getting that extra hit with one out or two outs. (Senior pitcher) Hailey Wilson ripped the ball every time she came up, but they were almost always at somebody, and that was just typical of our day.”
Olentangy (9-5, 2-3 OCC Capital) played all three phases of the game well, despite the lack of clutch hitting. The Braves’ defense was solid throughout, with juniors Sierra Stults and Missy Lee turning a first inning, 5-6 double play on a low line drive, and Lee recording six assists in the final three innings, five on tough plays in the hole on the left side of the infield or up the middle.
And Wilson, who went the distance and took the tough loss, was strong throughout, allowing just the one run, three hits and three walks with three strikeouts, retiring the final 14 batters she faced.
“It’s been like that our last four games,” Tharp said. “We’ve struggled hitting, but our defense and pitching have been excellent. No one’s scored more than three runs on us, and that’s all you can expect out of your defense. Missy’s having a great year, and she’s playing like that every game.”
The first-inning double play short-circuited a strong Mount Vernon (6-4, 2-3) start, but the Jackets came back in the second, getting a lead-off double to center from Courtney Harris and a two-out RBI single from Madi Fraizer.
Olentangy received consecutive hits from Wilson and junior outfielder Emily Hoffmann with two outs in the first, but a strikeout ended the inning. Sophomore first baseman Ashley Post drew a lead-off walk in the second and went to second on a one-out sacrifice by sophomore catcher Sierra Bell, but was stranded after a line out.
Lee reached on a one-out bunt single in the third and went to second with two out when Hoffmann hit a one-hop single through the right side, but the inning ended with another strikeout. Post led off the fourth with a single and moved to third on a sacrifice by senior second baseman Brooke Ring and a Bell groundout, but Post was stranded again after a pop out.
Lee reached on a two-base error in the fifth but could not score after a lineout and groundout, and Post clubbed a one-out double in the sixth but was left on base after a pop up to the pitcher and a groundout to the circle.
The Braves seemed poised to score in the seventh. Junior center fielder Jessica Lowery singled through the right side with one out and Lee dropped a bunt down the third base line Mount Vernon coaches argued hit Lee outside the batter’s box, but after the umpires conferred, Lee was ruled safe with a single.
Wilson hit a fly ball to left that Mount Vernon’s Bailey Spearman caught easily, but both runners tagged up and moved up a base — or so Olentangy fans thought.
Mount Vernon coach Mike Marcum appealed, Yellow Jacket pitcher Madi Drabick threw to shortstop Nicole Doyle at second base, and the field umpire ruled Lowery left the base early and called her out, ending the game.
The disappointment with the way things ended still didn’t diminish how much confidence Tharp still has in his team, one that, in a similar situation last year, came back and won the Capital Division with a 13-1 league record.
“We’re exactly halfway through the season, and this is the time we came on last year,” Tharp said. “With any luck, history will repeat itself and we can hit the ball from here on in.”
Post topped the hitters with a double and single, while Lee and Hoffmann each had a pair of singles for the Braves. Lowery and Wilson also finished with one single each.
Drabick got the win for Mount Vernon, allowing eight hits and a walk with three strikeouts. Harris had a double and scored the only run, while Frazier and Doyle added a single each, Fraizer driving in the game’s lone run.