Lady Liberators lethal fifth sinks Nevada, 8-4
A valiant effort fell short for the Nevada Lady Tiger softball team as a late-inning lead slipped away and they fell, 8-4, to the visiting Bolivar Lady Liberators Tuesday at Bushwhacker Field.
The non-conference loss moves Nevada to 5-4 overall. Bolivar opened the season on a five-game win streak, but entered Tuesday's contest on a three-game losing skid.
"Overall, we played a really good game against a team that went to the state quarterfinals last year, and brought back everybody except one player," said Nevada head coach Danny Penn. "So we knew coming into the game it was going to be a challenge."
The Lady Liberators struck first, courtesy of Avery McClure's first-inning two-run blast. Nevada quickly knotted the contest at two-apiece, touching up Florida State University commit Katie Brooks for a pair of runs in the home-half of the first.
With two down in the frame, senior Hailee Lundine deposited a run-scoring single into right-center, followed by Claire Pritchett's opposite field RBI-double off the base of the left field wall.
Pritchett struck again in the third, as the sophomore first baseman plated the speedy Bailey Ast for a 3-2 advantage. Nevada then grabbed a two-run lead via freshman Kirstin Buck's RBI line-smash to right. With the ball being misplayed, Buck attempted to turn her double into an inside-the-parker, but was gunned down on a razor-close play at the plate.
"Kirstin did a great job of taking an outside pitch and lining it to right," said the first-year head coach. "After it got past the right fielder, she came hard to third, and I told her to 'get a turn.' She (rounded) third, liked what she saw, and gave it a shot."
After yielding the home run in the opening frame, Nevada starter Abby Harder settled into a groove before encountering some turbulence in the fourth. With the bases loaded and two outs, Lady Tiger shortstop Tylin Heathman made a back-handed stab on a sinking liner to end the Lady Liberator threat.
"Tylin makes plays that a lot of other shortstops don't make," said Penn, of his star middle infielder.
The fifth-inning, however, was a tough one for Nevada, as Bolivar plated six runs. Paige Severns and Jadyn Hamilton did the bulk of the heavy lifting, as both collected 2-RBI doubles in the inning, for an 8-4 Bolivar cushion.
Nevada knocked Brooks from the circle after just three innings, but was unable to generate much offense from that point forward.
Penn said he was pleased with how his squad responded in dealing with an early deficit.
"Abby did a great job of getting right back in the circle and attacking the strike zone," Penn said.
Added Penn: "We felt really good about our approach (at the plate) against Brooks. She is a heralded pitcher, and you could see why. She throws hard, and hits her spots. But at the same time, we made her throw us strikes, and we hit the ball hard."
Penn said the message to his team prior to the game was to step into the box with confidence against Brooks.
"The first three innings we did a great job of that," he said. "Arguably, such a good job that they made the pitching change, because they realized that she's not tricking us. So, I love the way that our batters responded to that challenge."
Said Penn: "When they made the pitching change, and went soft, we weren't able to make ourselves stay back."
Penn discussed his club's tough fifth inning.
"They got some runners on, and we had a couple of plays that were there to be made," he said. "We didn't make those plays, unfortunately, and Bolivar made it hurt. That's what good teams do."
Continued Penn: "Aside from the fifth inning, we were solid. Kirstin, at third base, made a lot of really nice plays. And for someone who hasn't caught for five or six years, Hailee continues to do a really good job behind the plate. But in the field behind Abby in the fifth, we gave them a couple extra chances, and they took advantage."
Nevada 15, El Do 0
It's been a busy start to the week for the Lady Tigers, as Nevada walloped El Dorado Springs, 15-0, in a non-conference road clash Monday.
Nevada starter Maggie Leisure scattered five hits in four innings of work. Leisure notched the complete-game victory, as the contest concluded in run-rule fashion.
The Lady Tigers scratched across three in the first, and then detonated for an 11-run second. Nevada then plated a run in the fourth, accounting for the final margin.
Penn said he was thrilled with his club's effort. "Offensively, we were very disciplined at the plate, taking 11 walks over the course of four innings."
Notching multi-hit performances for Nevada were Lundine, Pritchett, Buck, and Madison Hyder. Additionally, Pritchett drove in three runs, while Buck and Lundine collected two RBI apiece.
"We were fortunate to be able to get a number of JV players some varsity experience," Penn noted. "Cailyn Hollands was able to get her first varsity hit, and RBI — with a double in the fourth."
Nevada also won the junior varsity contest, dispatching El Do, 9-4 in three innings — and then besting Bolivar on Tuesday, 7-4.
The Lady Tiger finished 3-2 over the weekend in Joplin, notching a fifth-place tournament finish.
Nevada opened pool-play Friday with an 11-7 victory over Seneca, and then followed with a 13-5 defeat of Joplin, and a 10-6 loss to Springfield's Park Hill South.
"A few of our girls battled some adversity today, but we're pleased with how they pushed through it and found some success," Penn said.
The Lady Tigers returned to the diamond Saturday morning for bracket-play, falling to Neosho, 13-5, and wrapped tournament-play by dispatching Webb City, 9-6. In the finale against Webb juniors Harder and Heathman homered, while Harder also recorded a complete-game victory. Additionally, Leisure mashed a 3-run bomb in Friday's clash with Park Hill South.
"Overall, for the weekend, coach (Mackenzie) Wolfe and I were really encouraged with how we played," said Penn. "We played against five quality teams, and more than held our own. I was impressed with how our players swung the bat, as we had lots of hard contact. Claire had a great offensive weekend, and many of our players had multiple, multi-hit games."
Added Penn: "Our pitchers did a good job of battling through adversity, as they're still getting lengthened out. Abby, Maggie, and Hailee all performed nicely, and we're encouraged by the (direction) our team is moving (in)."
Penn said he's very optimistic about Nevada's start to the season.
"I'm very hopeful that our team realizes how good they can be," he said. "We see glimpses of it here, glimpses of it there. But man, when we put together a good game, we can compete with, and have a good chance of beating, anyone we play. So that's exciting as a coach."
The Lady Tigers face Seneca in a Big 8 road matchup Thursday.