Republished from the Jefferson City News Tribune
The only way the Jefferson City softball team could have stormed out of the gates more aggressively Wednesday would have been to break the rules and bat before the away team. The Lady Jays scored eight runs in the first inning, putting every batter on base the first time around the lineup en route to a 11-1 defeat of Rock Bridge in five innings at 63 Diamonds.
Jefferson City scored five runs before an out was recorded, and a two-run double by Megan Newton to left center knocked Rock Bridge’s pitcher out of the game with just a third of an inning recorded.
“That set the tempo for the whole game,” coach Zac Miller said. “Then they’re playing on their heels and our players are playing with lots of confidence.”
The game was the Lady Jays’ home opener in Miller’s first season as head coach. With yellow baseball cutouts bearing players’ names on the patio behind home plate, the game had a true home feel — something cemented by the fact 63 Diamonds will be a permanent home for the Lady Jays, who played at various locales across town last season.
“We played well last night,” Miller said, referring to an 18-0 win Tuesday at Lebanon, “and then to be able to come back home for the home opener and play well again, that gives our girls a lot of confidence.”
The downside to playing at home is the other team has a chance to strike first. Rock Bridge did just that, and the first batter of the game, junior Delaney McDannold, was the first and only Bruin to score. McDannold walked, stole second and scored on an RBI double by sophomore Bailey Devlin before starting pitcher Alyssa Schulte recorded her second and third strikeouts of the inning.
If the bottom half of the frame is any indication, the Lady Jays aren’t big fans of playing from behind. Katy Tambke bunted the third pitch she saw to reach first and took third easily on a steal and an error on the throw to second. Schulte then tied the game with a single to left. Emily Williams and Taylor Dey singled the next two pitches to load the bases, and Alex Gilliland plated courtesy runner Victoria Arcobasso and Williams with a double to left field.
The Bruins tried to retire Dey at home on a Hannah Hirschvogel grounder, but Dey slid through the throw, which went to the backstop, allowing Gilliland to score. Ashton Glass and Gabi McGinty walked, and Newton’s double scored Jefferson City’s sixth and seventh runs.
“I think our hitters, they try not to do too much,” Miller said. “We didn’t chase bad pitches, looked for something good to hit, and put a good swing on the ball. We just try and slow the game down.”
Tambke was hit by the first pitch after the Bruins made a change in the circle, and Schulte singled to load the bases. Williams drew a walk to score the final run of the seven-hit inning.
After the Lady Jays’ lengthy trip to the plate, Schulte began the second inning by walking the first batter, who was sacrificed to second.
“I think she was trying to be a little too fine, coming in in that second inning,” Miller said. She was “missing off the plate just a little bit, and we just talked to her and said, ‘Hey, with an 8-1 lead like that, you don’t have to be so fine. Just go in there in fill (the strike zone) up and just pitch with confidence.’”
With some nifty defense behind her, Schulte nixed the scoring threat. The next batter grounded to the third baseman McGinty, who looked the runner back to third before throwing to first. The baserunner then chanced a delayed dash to the plate and was met with a strike from the first baseman Williams to the catcher Hirschvogel, who applied the tag to end the inning.
The Lady Jays were hitless in the second, but continued to pile on with a three-run third inning in which eight players batted.
“After a pitching change, it might take a little bit to get ‘er dialed back in,” Miller said. “But then we started putting together some good at-bats and just slowing it down and kind of starting fresh. Just trying to win every inning.”
The Lady Jays have now scored 29 runs in nine trips to the plate. Miller is enjoying the new gig.
“It’s been fun so far,” he said. “I think they keep just trying to do the little things and execute and move in runners and play good defense — and pitching’s been great. That’s what we’re looking for.”
Schulte allowed one run on three hits in five innings, striking out seven and walking three.
Jefferson City (2-0) looks to keep the hitting going today at St. Elizabeth.