Emily Walker, left, of Jonathan Alder gets caught stealing second base when Madison Amstutz, right, of North Union applies the tag. Regan Martino of North Union watches the play unfold in the background. The Lady Cats won the game 6-5.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
The Wildcats of North Union are a team that has had to make some adjustments in the early portion of the 2019 softball season.
That’s because they are sporting six new faces on the field this season.
Those adjustments, though, are paying off as NU beat rival, Jonathan Alder, 6-5, Friday in a Central Buckeye Conference game.
The Pioneers made the jump from the Mid Ohio Athletic Conference two years ago.
North Union followed as they embark on their inaugural season with the league this spring.
“The battle with Jonathan Alder is always exciting, so it is nice to see them again and get back into the swing of things,” said NU head coach Dawn Draper.
The swings came early for both teams as the Lady Pioneers got the scoring underway.
Marlee Jacobs drove in a run with a single to right field in the top of the first.
The Lady Cats responded in a big way in the bottom of the frame.
NU’s Josie Duncan drew a lead-off against Jacobs.
Regan Martino laid down a solid bunt up the middle that had the JA defense all converging on the ball.
Alder couldn’t make a play, which put runners at first and second for NU.
Madison Amstutz walked load the bases for Kennady Ruhl.
Ruhl laced a double down the left field line that reached the fence and brought home three runners to give the Cats a 3-1 lead.
Laney Converse picked up Ruhl on a groundout RBI before JA could get off the field down 4-1.
JA head coach Dave McGrew said the first inning made all the difference in the final outcome of the game.
“That game was in the first inning for us,” he said. “We just need to have more games like this where we get tested.
“We blew bunt coverage and we get the bases loaded with an error in the outfield and they plated four runs,” said McGrew. “They should have gotten out of that inning with two at the most and then we were playing catch-up.”
The second and the third innings featured solid pitching from both teams.
Duncan was in the circle for NU and Jacobs threw fastballs for the Pioneers.
Neither team could find any seams in the opposing team’s defense, leading to a scoreless inning.
Alder added a run in the fourth when Jaden Phelps drove in Cierra Clark, who had reached base earlier in the inning on a bouncing ball the Lady Cat infield had trouble fielding.
The Lady Pioneers held NU at bay in the bottom of the fourth.
They picked up another run in the fifth to pull to within one at 4-3 going into the bottom of the frame.
NU came up big in the fifth with the help of some timely hitting by Destiny Reebel. Kayla Sedgwick was able to squirt the ball between third and shortstop for a single to get the offense going.
Converse was issued a walk.
Reeebel stepped to the plate and took the count deep before blasting a line drive over the shortstop.
The ball went to the fence to score both runners and give NU a 6-3 lead going into the sixth inning.
Draper said timely hitting and all around solid defense helped her team seal the victory.
“Hats off to a couple of clutch hits,” she said. “I thought we played pretty decent defense. Jo’s (Duncan) mound performance could have really gone sour, but she didn’t let it.”
JA made one more push in the top of the seventh by loading the bases and plating two runs to bring the score to within 6-5.
A solid line drive snare by NU third baseman Converse ended Alder’s chances of a comeback.
McGrew was happy with his team’s performance.
“It is early in the season and we need to be in games like this where we are competing,” he said. “I totally like my team and by tournament time we will be ready. We have a good lineup.”
Both teams now have a 5-1 record for the season.
Jonathan Alder will host Bishop Ready today, while North Union will host Northwestern on Monday.
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