Laine Sparks of North Union fires a pitch toward the plate during a softball game against Tecumseh on Friday. She came in during the save situation and held on to the Lady Cats’ 4-1 lead to win the contest. (Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
The North Union softball team is in the middle of a dynamic change in the program. The Lady Cats moved a little closer to the Central Buckeye Conference Mad River title when they toppled Tecumseh, 4-1, on Friday.
NU had to use three pitchers to earn the victory.
Coach Dawn Draper said that is something that has never been done during her 20 years at the helm.
“We are pitching by committee,” she said. “It is not often you see a softball team pitch this way.
“In baseball, it happens all the time, but in softball you can ride a good pitcher for 32 games.”
Draper said she is not opposed to the new pitching strategy, thanks to some advice from her long-time assistant coach Terry Setser.
“Terry said it well… change is good, even if things are going well,” she said. “It is something we need to do, because that is who we are this season.”
Bailee Amstutz started in the circle for the Lady Cats.
The Lady Arrows’ lead-off hitter reached first base when she belted a ball to left field that went in and out of Cagney Stewart’s glove.
Tecumseh picked up its first hit in the inning, which allowed the runner to move to third.
The early error turned into a run when a pitch got past catcher Kennady Ruhl behind the plate.
Amstutz got out of the inning by collecting a strikeout.
Draper said errors have been something that has plagued her team.
“The thing we are trying to get them to understand is most of the runs against us have come either when we have two outs or an error right off the bat,” she said. “We are trying to stop that.
“We’re trying to focus on each inning … getting that first out or finishing when we have two outs.”
The two teams were then quiet until the top of the third when Amstutz gave up a lead-off walk.
Tecumseh followed with a single up the middle, putting runners at first and second.
Amstutz loaded the bags with her second walk of the inning.
Draper then called on Reese DeGood to take in the circle.
DeGood escaped trouble by popping up Tecumseh to third base and notching her first strikeout.
DeGood worked through the Arrows’ lineup in the fourth and fifth.
She earned her second and third punch-outs to keep the Lady Cats in reach of their 1-0 deficit.
The Lady Cats’ bats came alive in the fifth.
Amstutz singled up the middle.
Courtesy runner Lindsey Willis swiped second base.
Jada Davis followed with a looping liner just over the short stop’s head to put runners at second and third.
Candace Holloway laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners.
DeGood plated the first run for the Lady Cats with a hit to the shortstop.
The Tecumseh infielder threw home, but Willis was able to slide under the tag to knot the game at 1-1.
Kayla Sedgwick stepped up to the plate and drove the ball into the gap for a two-run double.
Regan Martino changed positions with Sedgwick when she followed with an RBI double that pushed NU to a 4-1 lead.
Draper said her team has a lot of duality this season.
“There are days when I think we are not ready and we come out and play like a Final Four team,” she said. “Then there are days I think we are ready and we come out and look like the Bad News Bears.”
“But the kids are digging deep and playing well together.”
With the lead in hand, DeGood held Tecumseh in the sixth inning and set up Laine Sparks for the save.
Sparks took over in the seventh and struck out Tecumseh’s leadoff batter.
She gave up an infield single, but got the Arrows to get a under a ball that landed in Davis’ glove for the second out.
Sparks punched out the Arrows’ last chance to hold on for the victory and improve the Lady Cats to 16-5.
North Union is scheduled to return to action Monday against Indian Lake.
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