Warriors' pitcher strikes out 14 Lady Longhorns
By Jonathan PleasantHappy Valley is proving to be one of the more talented softball teams in the conference this year. After a difficult loss on the road against the Lady Warriors earlier in the year, Johnson County’s girls were faced with the same type of challenge again at home. A talented pitcher and consistent hitting proved to be the Lady Longhorns’ undoing as they faced 14 strikeouts on the offensive end and multiple runners on base in every inning but the sixth.
In many cases the runners were cut short and left on base, but the strikeout issue really hurt Johnson County’s chances. Kalli Sluder led off in the first inning, taking a walk to first and eventually reaching second. A grounder to first and two following strikeouts ended the inning before Sluder could reach third. The next two innings were much the same way with missed swings plaguing the lineup. The fourth inning saw a little progress when Jayme Jennings did make it to third base after getting on with a walk and then advancing on a grounding error from Brianna Snyder.
Again, both runners were left standing and the only other good hit of the game came when Sluder knocked a double into center field in the fifth. “We did not have a consistent bat today,” said head coach Dana Smith. “Kalli had the only hit today. I don’t know what it is. They’re getting some bad habits, so we’re trying to work on those habits now and get them refocused on what they needed to do earlier in the season. Earlier in the season, they were doing a really good job hitting the ball and we were losing. I think that hurt their confidence and they always say girls have to feel good to play good. Boys, it doesn’t matter so much but these girls have to know they can do this and believe in themselves. When you lose games it’s hard to believe in yourself, but if you’re battling like we battled today, that’s the attitude they have to have.”
On the defense, Brianna Snyder threw out 86 strikes and five strikeouts, giving her team a fighting chance, but errors in the field once again proved to be the real determining factor in most cases. In fact, both of Happy Valley’s first two complete runs actually got on with grounding errors. Those two missteps came in the third inning when it was still 0-0 on the board, but with a combination of hits in the fourth and more errors in the fifth, the Lady Longhorns were soon looking at a five-run deficit. The score might have been even worse than that, with another missed grounder play at shortstop to start off the seventh. Johnson County was able to resume control, and with Snyder throwing out two Ks, the game ended 5-0 rather than 7-0.
Smith wasn’t happy with the finish, but also saw some things she could work with. Had the batting been better the game might have been a much different story, but with big games still coming up over the next couple weeks, the Coach Staff are trying to keep all eyes ahead. “We didn’t do bad against Happy Valley,” Smith said. “We just made errors at the wrong time and did some strange things, but that’s the way it goes. They beat us 5-0 but really the score probably should have been two. We’re having to play so many games coming up. We go to Tiny Day next week, so it will all be good. If we just keep playing, as much as they are playing, as many pitches as they are seeing now, it can’t do anything but make them better coming into district tournament.”