It was an all-county softball battle on a warm and windy last Wednesday afternoon at West Union High School as the Lady Dragons welcomed to town the Peebles Lady Indians. Both teams came in with records below the .500 mark, but both squads were looking for the same thing, a win to build a little momentum heading into this week’s sectional tournament play.
This day belonged to the Lady Indians as they busted out with five runs in the top of the first inning, riding a 14-hit attack and making those runs stand up for a 7-5 victory. Peebles was led by the bat and arm of freshman Jessica Sowards who pitched seven innings for the win and went 4 for 4 at the plate. Being on the mound for the third consecutive day, Sowards still managed to battle her way through a complete game effort.
“I wasn’t sure what we would get from Jessica, but she assured me before the game that she felt good and was ready for the opportunity,” said Peebles head coach Doug McFarland.
The Lady Indians came to play early, taking advantage of opportunities and getting the aforementioned five runs in their first at-bat. Lead off hitter Skyler Newman was hit by a pitch by West Union starter Mary Hinton and promptly stole second and third, coming home on a one-out ground ball to third by Kaitlin Toller. West Union could have been out of the inning with just that one run, but with two outs, Sierra Stone reached on an error and the flood gates opened.
Mariah Knauff singled to center, scoring Stone, and Sowards belted a double to center that brought Knauff home. An infield hit by Taylor Alexander was followed by an RBI bloop single by Hayley Rolfe, a ball that lazily dropped between the first and second baseman. A grounder to third off the bat of Brittany Stephens was booted, allowing the fifth run of the frame to cross the plate, only one of them of the earned variety.
“We started the game with West Union giving us some extra opportunities that allowed us to take the lead,” said Coach McFarland. “We were able to hold that lead.”
After the rocky start in the field, the Lady Dragons recovered a bit in their initial at-bat. Catcher Natasha Barr led off with a line drive triple to left, the first of her three extra-base hits on the day. A ground out to short by her sister Cierra Barr brought home the first West Union run. Kristen Grooms followed with a base hit to left, stole second, and scored on a base hit to right by Hinton. When the ball got past the right fielder, Hinton moved to second, and then to third on a wild pitch. After CeCe Howard went down swinging for the second out, a wicked ground ball off the bat of Alisa Boldman ricocheted off the pitcher’s glove and went for a base hit, driving home Hinton to make it 5-3.
After the combined eight runs in the first inning, both teams went down meekly in the second, but the third inning was a scoring frame again for both sides. In the top of the third, Peebles got a one-out single to center by Sowards, followed by a base hit to left by Alexander and a walk to Rolfe that filled the bases. Back to back singles by Stephens and Newman brought two more runs across to give the Lady Indians a 7-3 advantage.
The home team got one of those back in the bottom of the third when Grooms reached on an error and came home on a base hit to left by Hinton to draw the Lady Dragons back within three runs.
For the rest of the way, the Peebles offense was stymied by Hinton, though they certainly had their chances, leaving 11 runners stranded in the game. West Union drew another run closer in their half of the fifth when Barr blasted a triple to deep left field and came home when the relay throw from the outfield was dropped. The Lady Dragons got another runner when Grooms reached on a fielder’s choice, but the inning ended when Peebles shortstop Aubrey McFarland’s running catch of a short pop fly to center turned into an acrobatic double play.
Peebles threatened with a pair of base runners in the top of the seventh but didn’t score, leaving the Lady Dragons one more shot at Sowards. Sowards retired the first two hitters on ground outs before surrendering a double to left center to Natasha Barr. Barr was left stranded with the tying run at the plate when sister Cierra grounded to third baseman Kaitlin Toller for the game’s final out.
“The pitching and hitting of Sowards helped us hold our lead tonight,” said Coach McFarland. “She also received some defensive help from shortstop Aubrey McFarland, which probably secured the win for us.”
Sowards went seven innings, allowing seven hits and three earned runs, while striking out five. The freshman pitcher also banged out four hits, including a double. Skyler Newman, Taylor Alexander, Hayley Rolfe, and Brittany Stephens all had two hits for Peebles, part of their 14-hit day. The Peebles 6-9 hitters were a combined 10-15 in the game.
Natasha Barr had the big bat for West Union, going 3 for 4 with a double and a pair of triples. Mary Hinton had a pair of hits as well as two runs batted in. On the mound, Hinton threw seven innings, using her change up to keep the Lady Indians off balance, resulting in eight strikeouts. The West Union hurler may have deserved a better fate as she only gave up three earned runs.
The win improved the Lady Indians to 5-10 on the season, 5-7 in the Southern Hills Athletic Conference. The loss dropped the Lady Dragons to an identical 5-10 on the spring.
“We are looking forward to tournament play,” said Coach McFarland. “Hopefully we can keep the positives working for us and come away with some wins.”
Mark Carpenter can be reached at 937-544-2391 or on Twitter @adamscosports.
502 000 0 —7
301 010 0 —5
Peebles Hitting (AB-R-H-RBI): Newman 4-1-2-1, McFarland 5-0-1-0, Toller 5-0-0-1, Stone 4-1-0-0, Knauff 4-1-1-1, Sowards 4-2-4-1, Alexander 4-2-2-0, Rolfe 3-0-2-1, Stephens 4-0-2-1, Team 37-7-14-6.
Extra-Base Hits: Sowards 2B
W. Union Hitting (AB-R-H-RBI): N. Barr 4-2-3-0, C. Barr 4-0-0-1, Grooms 3-2-1-0, Hinton 3-1-2-2, Howard 3-0-0-0, Boldman 3-0-1-1, Wilson 3-0-0-0, Young 3-0-0-0, Caldwell 3-0-0-0, Team 29-5-7-4.
Extra-Base Hits: N. Barr 2B, 3B (2)
Peebles Pitching: Sowards (W) 7 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 K
W. Union Pitching: Hinton (L) 7 IP, 14 H, 7 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 8 K