Bulldogs give Eudora double defeat
The Eudora softball team had a full week to savor its season-opening sweep of Pleasant Ridge before entertaining rival Baldwin. The Bulldogs challenged a Cardinal team that scored 25 runs in just 10 innings last week. Kasey Pittenger wasn't pitching in those games, though.
Baldwin, behind stellar pitching performances and some Eudora charity, stole two on the road, 2-0 and 4-1.
The doubleheader featured the makings of a classic pitchers' dual. Eudora offered junior ace Kelly Spence coming off a no-hitter in her last outing; Baldwin countered with a remarkable senior in Pittenger.
A pitcher isn't likely to strikeout all 21 batters she faces, so it is critical that the balls put in play are handled cleanly and plays executed precisely. With this understanding established, the Eudora Cardinals committed nine errors in the two game set. The mistakes resulted in two losses and the waste of another pair of strong outings by Spence, who allowed only one earned run on 11 hits while striking out eight in the two games combined.
"These were tough losses, I hate to lose to Baldwin," said coach Cara Kimberlin, echoing the sentiments of Cardinal fans. "I hate losing at all, but especially (to Baldwin) this year. I felt like we had the team to do it, but defensively, and offensively, we didn't get the job done. (Baldwin) played well."
Game one lived up to its pitcher's dual buildup as Spence and Pittenger gave the scoreboard operator an hour of free time.
With no score in the top of the sixth, Baldwin came to bat. Junior Kari Garrison singled, getting the ball rolling. The following two batters reached base with a pair of misplays from freshman third baseman Kelsey Epperson. The bases were loaded with nobody out. A sacrifice fly to freshman Michelle Deluna in deep left field brought home the eventual winning run. Following a fly to senior Mallorie Cleveland at first, Spence had a 0-2 count on the Bulldog batter. Eudora catcher Alissa Hamilton, who had a tremendous day defensively, tried to double-pump throw to third to pick off a Baldwin runner inching a bit too aggressively toward home. The throw was too much for Epperson to handle, and the game's second run crossed the plate. Spence subsequently struck out the Baldwin batter on the very next pitch.
The three errors in the inning may have been harder to accept if it wasn't for one crucial factor clearly not lost on the Eudora coach.
"You have to score to win the game anyway," Kimberlin said to her team from the third base coach's box in the following half inning.
Although the girls no doubt agreed with their coach's logic, the Cardinals went down one-two-three.
In the bottom of the seventh Eudora failed to get the ball out of the infield with senior Mary Johnson's liner right at the shortstop and Deluna's smash right at the pitcher to end the game.
"We hit the ball hard and put it in play," Kimberlin said. "We couldn't get it through the times we needed to. We hit several line drives right at them."
Despite contributing to one of the nine errors. Hamilton's defense was remarkable. She threw out four of the six potential base stealers she faced; two out of three in each game.
"I was a little surprised they kept attacking," Kimberlin said. "Baldwin's one of the fastest teams we play. There is no one on their team that's not a threat to steal."
The unlucky offense and untidy defense continued throughout both games. Three two-out runs in the first inning of game two buried the Cards, still stinging from the tough loss in game one.
Eudora would finally score in the bottom of the third after nine shutout innings. Soft-handed sophomore Kayla Moyer laid down a near-perfect bunt, reaching first. Epperson's sacrifice bunt advanced Moyer to second and then on a passed ball advanced to third. Junior shortstop Lauren Kracl's RBI single ended the scoring drought. Hamilton followed with a single and the Cards had the tying runs on base. Following the script of the day senior Mallorie Cleveland would succumb to a nice defensive play at third, and junior Mallory Ross's liner was shagged by a leaping second baseman.
"We're going to drill fundamentals -- its such a fundamental game," Kimberlin said. "I have confidence in my kids, no doubt. There is still a ton of potential for this team."
The good news for the Cards is that they only have to live with this setback for a day before hitting the field again Thursday at home versus Anderson County.