Playing their first full game of the season after inclement weather postponed numerous scrimmages and practices, the Lady Longhorn Softball team had a mixed performance taking on the University High Lady Bucs at Indian Trail Middle School in Johnson City. A tough third inning ultimately cost Johnson County the game 6 runs to 12, but the final score didnt necessarily reflect some of the strong plays on the field.
Even though this was the first real outing for the team, weather conditions were still far from ideal and a bitingly cold wind made things difficult for both sides. Unfortunately, as head coach Dana Smith pointed out, the Lady Longhorns cant afford to be picky about their opportunities to play. If this weather doesnt start cooperating with us were going to be in trouble, Smith said. If you count this little tournament last Saturday, weve been on the field five times total. Thats not an excuse because weve been in the tunnel, weve been hitting and weve been swinging the bat, but we didnt hit. Weve even done a lot of stuff in the gym, but youve got to get on the field, whether youre playing or youre practicing. Thats why were in all these tournaments, to give these young girls the opportunity to play as much as they can play.
Standing strikeouts and a lack of overall hitting on the offense did prove to be Johnson Countys downfall, but that didnt mean that the Lady Longhorns werent able to pull off some strong sporadic contact. Senior Kristin Roark landed a big double in the second inning, topped only by a triple from Hope Nelson in the same inning. Along with several walks and beneficial mis-throws from the Lady Bucs pitcher, Johnson County was able to put players on the field several times, but none compared with freshman Jayme Jennings huge home run in the top of the fifth.
Giving Jennings an RBI off of Ashley Arnold on first, the hit pushed Johnson County six on the scoreboard and seemed to put them on track for a comeback, though another lull in the offense proved otherwise. When asked about the hit Jennings explained her unique way of focusing at the plate. I literally sing just to get my mind off of every thing, Jennings said. A lot of it is that I over process and analyze too much. I have to try to not over think it and just go up there. Otherwise Im thinking things like dont drop your hands, use your hips, dont come so far forward on my front foot, keep your head in, and dont pull. There are just too many things going through my mind, but if Im singing I just focus on the song. When I struck out earlier I was thinking about Thrift Shop so that ones off the list, but I was wanting some warmth so Walking on Sunshine was perfect.
Even trailing University High just five hits to seven, there were simply too many problems at the plate to come up with complete runs. Even worse was a huge six-run streak in the third inning that gave University High a decided advantage. We didnt do well on the offense to have managed to have five strikeouts, Smith said. Weve talked about that and this weekend, all weekend, for four games we only had four strikeouts total. Then we come out today and we have five in one game along with a few errors in fielding. Youve got to have one if you dont have the other. Youve got to play on your strength. Lets hope they settle in and just do their job. Thats what I want them to do. I know they can. I have confidence in them, but they have just got to do it.
The Lady Longhorns typically fare better on the defense and this game was no exception. Hope Nelson led the first half of the game from the mound before turning it over to freshman Brianna Snyder and both had very strong showings. Nelson ended up pitching 57 strikes against 25 batters, while Snyder landed 26 strikes against 12. Both had several strikeouts to their credit and while there were many that missed the mark, both are young players with a great deal of potential.
Senior Ashley Arnold led the way in fielding, cutting off two runners in the fourth on a very smooth play that demonstrated her mastery of second base. Yet, at this early stage many of the other positions are still finding their way although there were a few notable catches by players like Abby Reece who did well at center field. Johnson Countys catcher, Meghan Walter was absent from the game, but freshman Kourtney Tolley did her best to take up slack.
Megan is sick; thats why she didnt make the trip, Smith said. That was the first time Kourtney has ever started on varsity. Its a big deal to do that, to throw a freshman in here and she did the best she could do with everything that was happening in the game. Theres a lot that were going to talk about, especially standing on third strikes, but all of this is just a matter of time. We play two games tomorrow night and all day Saturday and Im hoping we play well both of those days.
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