Cards defense, pitching topple Pleasant Ridge
A nearly perfect 75-degree day ushered in a nearly perfect opening day for the Eudora Cardinals softball team Tuesday.
Eudora swept the Rams of Pleasant Ridge 2-0 and 9-1.
"It's a good way to start," head coach Cara Kimberlin said. "We played extremely well today.
"We had a good outing by Kelly (Spence) and a good outing by our defense, but we can't wait so long to get our sticks going."
Yeah, Spence was pretty good. The Cardinal senior pitched all 14 innings allowing a total of one run on seven hits while striking out 14.
"Kelly threw really well today," Kimberlin said. "She's going to be our workhorse this year."
Spence opened the year looking like she was in midseason form. The Cardinal offense, on the other hand, looked like it was the first game of the year.
A third inning rally was the sole exception.
Junior Jamie Bowser set the stage for the pivotal third inning with a one-out walk. Fellow junior Kayla Moyer followed with a bunt single. Another junior, Jacqueline Pyle, promptly delivered the season's first RBI with a line-drive single to right center.
Bowser scored on the play breaking the scoreless tie.
Moments later Pyle was caught stealing. But Moyer wisely broke from third on the throw, scoring the team's second and final run.
Pleasant Ridge threatened only once -- in the seventh.
The Rams managed to place runners at first and second with one out. Pleasant Ridge attempted to advance the runners into scoring position with a double steal. But junior catcher Alissa Hamilton fired a strike to Epperson, covering third to eliminate the runner and Ram threat.
Spence closed out the game with her seventh strikeout.
Moyer, Pyle and freshman Caitlyn Riser collected the Cards three hits.
The nightcap appeared destined to follow a similar script. The game was scoreless through three and a half innings before Epperson ignited the Eudora offense.
The Cardinals' third baseman led off the bottom of the fourth with a triple. Sophomore shortstop Michelle Deluna doubled a batter later, plating the game's first run.
Epperson's run seemed to open the floodgates. Eudora scored four runs in both the fifth and sixth innings, cruising to the 9-1 victory.
Eudora's offense steadily improved through the night as it shook off opening day jitters.
"Hopefully it indicates that we were just getting our feet wet in game situations again," Kimberlin said. "But none of these kids is a stranger to hitting. And they play a lot of games in the summertime."
If it was just nerves holding Eudora's attack back, then watch out. Six of the Cards 10 hits went for extra bases.
"Extra base hits make a big difference," Kimberlin said. "We don't have to burn out getting a player into scoring position."
Epperson, Deluna, Spence and freshman Beth Folks each had multiple hit games.
Bowser had a decent day going 1-for-3, but it was a sure out that will highlight her game.
She attempted to bunt a runner over to second base in the fifth inning. The bunt was fielded by the pitcher who proceeded to fire the ball past the first baseman into right field. Bowser touched them all.
Folks in her Cardinal debut was especially impressive going 2-for-3 with a double and a triple. She hit the ball hard and reached base in each of her at bats (reaching on a throwing error in the sixth).
"Beth (Folks) came up huge for us," Kimberlin said. "She might have been responsible for the momentum swing. And she may have awakened our upperclassmen."
Until last year the Cards had never started a season 2-0. Now they've done it two years in a row.
But last season's squad failed to carry through on the promise. Eudora lost 13 of its next 19 games.
"I hope (the 2-0 start) produces better results than last year because we got into league play and flopped all over ourselves," Kimberlin said. "But it's obviously always great to get a sweep the first night out."
Standing now between Eudora and a 4-0 start is a trip to Baldwin City on Tuesday.
"I thought we played very well defensively in both games tonight," Kimberlin said. "But Baldwin's going to be a lot more aggressive on the bases. It will be a challenge for our defense; they'll have to think a lot more out there."
It's a tough test for a young team this early in the season.
"We might as well start right off the bat with one of the best teams in the league and see where we stand," Kimberlin said. "A win or two against Baldwin would be a real boost for our confidence."