The revitalization of the Greencastle softball program took a big step forward Tuesday night as they completed a sweep of county rival North Putnam with a pair of wins to open the season 2-0.
The wins make GHS 2-0 in conference as well as on the season, a big point of emphasis for coach Dave Keller.
"Last year we got our first conference win in two years in May. Here it is, our first two games and we have two conference wins. That was what we wanted," Keller said.
The Tiger Cubs opened the evening with two runners in scoring position and full count to Jessica Miller. However, North Putnam's Taylor Judy got her to fly out before ending the threat with a strikeout of Samantha Sillery.
They threatened again in the 10th, but finally scored the go-ahead run when Becca Seahorn drove in Briana Baker in the top of the 11th.
The only threat the Cougars (0-2, 0-2 WCC) posted was after a 10th-inning double by Dakota Malayer. However, the next two batters grounded out.
"We talked about getting out of that first inning and scoring a run. We just couldn't get a run scored," Cougar coach Jim Brothers said. "That's something we're going to work on. Just like Greencastle, we're coming off spring break, so we're a little bit rusty."
A freshman in her first start, Judy was impressive in spite of taking the loss. She pitched all 11 innings for the Cougars and struck out 14 Tiger Cubs.
Baker picked up the win in a seven-inning relief performance for the Cubs. She and Mallory Miller combined for 12 strikeouts.
In game two, the Tiger Cub defense and Miller's pitching was the biggest part of the story. They picked up their first two runs in the bottom of the first and mostly kept the Cougars at bay the rest of the night.
Spencer scored the opening run on a wild pitch before Mallory Miller drove Alspaugh in.
The Cougars scored one run each in the second and third on RBI from Elsiana Crosby and Judy.
However, Spencer singled with a bunt, stole second and reached third on a groundout. She then scored on a passed ball to put the Cubs back on top 3-2.
For the rest of the night, it was defense and pitching that kept the Tiger Cubs in the lead.
"I thought defense and our pitching were superb. They did everything we asked them to do, and we got out of crucial situations," Keller said.
"It's hard to complain when we played the defense that we played all the way around the diamond. We made big plays," he continued. "We got out of a first and second with nobody out situation there in the fifth inning."
In the seventh, one big play made the difference when Spencer fielded a ball from short, stepped on second base and made the throw to first for a crucial double play.
The Cougars' Lauran Green grounded out on the next play, ending the game.
"I know it's cliché, but it was a team effort," Keller said. "We can name 12 girls who had a part in both of these wins, and all of them did something, whether it was defense or getting a hit or bunt in a crucial situation."
For the Cougars, the big story was Judy. Although she opened her varsity career 0-2, she still pitched 17 innings in two days, while allowing just 12 hits and seven runs. She also struck out 17.
"I think Taylor's done a really good job," Brothers said. "I thought she battled back. When we suspended the game last night it was getting slippery out there. You could just tell a difference out there. She wasn't controlling her pitches like she was normally. I thought she came back tonight and she did a really solid job."
While his team started with two losses, Brothers was not totally unhappy. It's simply early in the season and he knows they have work to do.
"We've got some fundamental work to do--advancing runners and putting down bunts in those situations. I thought our defense was pretty solid. We have to work on some base running issues," he concluded.
On the other side, Keller feels that a lot of hard work from his players is paying off. He took over a struggling program one year ago and these two wins may be proof his team is turning the corner.
"I'm just awful proud of them. They've worked hard for this and paid their dues. They're going to come around this year, I think," Keller concluded.
North Putnam visits Eminence at 5 p.m. Thursday. Greencastle travels to Edgewood at 5 p.m. Thursday.
At North Putnam and Greencastle*
|Greencastle||000 030 000 01 -- 4 8 0|
|North Putnam||000 210 000 00 -- 3 12 2|
M. Miller, Baker (5) and Alspaugh; Judy and Malayer.
WP -- Baker (1-0).
LP -- Judy (0-1).
2B -- J. Miller, Spencer, Baker (GHS), L. Crosby, McGaughey, Malayer (NP).
* -- The first 8-plus innings were played at North Putnam on Monday. The game was concluded at Greencastle on Tuesday.
|North Putnam||011 000 0 -- 2 7 0|
|Greencastle||201 000 X -- 3 5 2|
Judy and Malayer; M. Miller and Alspaugh.
WP -- Miller (1-0).
LP -- Judy (0-2).
Next game -- North Putnam (0-2, 0-2 WCC) visits Eminence at 5 p.m. Thursday. Greencastle (2-0, 2-0 WCC) travels to Edgewood at 5 p.m. Thursday.