VIRGINIA — The Virginia 18U softball team had to shake off some rust Friday after a two-week break to their season as they continued summer play with a doubleheader hosting Badger/Greenbush-Middle River.
The Blue Devils dropped game one 8-2, but it was clear the rust started to come off as the game went on, picking up their defense and driving the ball for some well-placed hits to right field in the fourth inning.
It was all BGMR before that, however, as the visitors kicked things off with five runs off of Virginia pitcher Maddie Lampton.
The Gators’ Mariah Christian opened things up with a single that turned into a triple after a Blue Devil throwing error at first. An out later, she was joined on base by teammate Erika Howell after being hit by a pitch.
Teammate Tessaley Blazek drove Christians home with an RBI single to left for the 1-0 lead. That lead was stretched to 2-0 thanks to a base hit from Jacey Wojohowski bringing home Howell.
After the second out and with two runners on Cassie Dahl blasted one to the left field fence and turned the gas on for an inside-the-park three-run home run to make it a 5-0 game. Lampton stopped the bleeding with a strikeout of Ava Howard to end in the inning.
Virginia didn’t get anything going in the first as Christian saw the minimum three batters and ended things with a strikeout of Janie Potts to put her team back on the offensive.
Kenzie Dahl led things off for the Gators in the top of the second and reached on a walk. She then moved to second on a fielder’s choice with Virginia making the play at first base.
Another out later, Dahl made her way to third on a passed ball with Howell at the plate. A second passed ball allowed Dahl to come home and score to make it 6-0 Badger-Greenbush. Lampton proceeded to strike out Howell to end the inning.
The Blue Devils managed to plate one in the bottom of the second after Jayda Westerbur was hit by a pitch to lead things off. Westerbur made her way to second on a wild pitch two batters later but was stranded in scoring position after the next two Virginia batters flew out to end the inning.
The Gators kept the offensive pressure going in the top of the third.
Blazek started things off taking a walk, She stole her way to second with Wojohowski at the plate and then moved to third on a wild pitch. The Devils defense managed to keep her held at third while Wojohowski was thrown out at first for the first out.
Blazek didn’t have to wait much longer to score, however, as Hanson powered a triple to deep right field to bring in the run. The Gators added on one after another wild pitch gave Hanson ample time to score from third.
The 8-0 score held through the bottom of the third and top of the fourth before Virginia finally managed to find some success at the plate.
With one out, Potts doubled to right field to put herself in scoring position. Pinch running for Potts, Addison Burkhardt took off for home after a throwing error by the Gators allowed Westerbur to reach second.
Burkhardt, however, hesitated and couldn’t make it in time as she was tagged out at home by B-G catcher Wojohowski.
Two outs down and in need of a run, Elsie Hyppa came up big for the Blue Devils and blasted a double of her own to right field, scoring Westerbur and getting Virginia on the board, 8-1.
The offense wasn’t done yet as Helen Phenning kept things moving with a double of her own to right field that brought home Chesney Bernard (running for Hyppa) to make it 8-2 in favor of the Badgers.
That’s all the scoring game one had to offer, however, as B-G took home the win. The game was stopped after five innings in the interest of having enough time for a second full contest between the two teams.
Coming off the two week break, Virginia head coach Bob Cohn knew his team could possibly come out slow against a strong team like Badger-Greenbush.
“It was very difficult for us and it showed out there that we were a bit rusty,” Cohn said after the first game. “We had the one really tough inning in that game and it made a big difference. It wasn’t even that we made a lot of errors but everything was hit hard out there and [Badger-Greenbush] got a lot of nice bounces that went their way.”
On the pitching of Lampton, Cohn said she pitched well overall despite the score.
“She pitched a nice game for us and I don’t think she deserved the bad bounces that our team got. She battled out there for us and the other girls started battling too and that’s all you can ask for.”
Cohn says the strong fourth inning for the Blue Devils was a combination of game smarts and finding their confidence.
“We told them to start moving up in the batter’s box a little more. Their pitcher was throwing the ball and had it coming in low on that outside corner. Our girls know anything on the outside corner has to be hit to right field just like we did. If you try to pull the ball you’ll pop it right up.
“So I think they got a little more confident in their hitting and we had some nice base running and it showed there in that fourth inning.”
A young squad, Cohn says a big key for the improvement of his team is just watching older players — even if they happen to be on the other team.
“I think our girls still have to understand the concept of the game and they have to spend time watching other teams play. There are some concepts you can’t teach in practice and you just have to learn by watching others do it and learning yourself. The more time they spend observing older players and other times, then I think they’ll start to pick up on it and I think that’ll start showing itself next spring.”