By Drew Karpen
April 16, 2013 7:00 a.m. CAMBRIDGE SPRINGS —
For once, the Cambridge Springs softball team had a chance to feel the dirt and grass of their own field. The energy to start Monday’s home opener was captivating, but not so much the result. Crashing the party was the Maplewood Tigers with an 8-1 Region 3 win over the Blue Devils.
The win improves the Tigers to 2-2 overall and 1-1 in the region. The Blue Devils fell to 1-4 overall and 1-1 in the region.
“This is the first time we have played on our field,” Cambridge Springs head coach Angie Mumford said. “We are learning. We are improving every game. We are taking things one pitch at a time. After the third inning we kicked it into gear. We had a couple different chances to score and we didn’t capitalize on it.”
Like Mumford said, the third inning was too late to get a rhythm going.
The Tigers’ offense, on the other hand, wasted no time producing, scoring four runs in the first inning and three more in the second.
“It was nice to see,” first-year Maplewood coach Hannah Parker said. “We didn’t have practice on Saturday because of rain and they came out and they were ready to play.”
Emily Merritt got the bats rolling for the Tigers, leading off the game with a line drive single that was too hot for third baseman Amanda White to handle. She would later scored on a series of errors by the Spa.
Molly Bernoski followed with a bunt single. She and Madalyn Nicols went on to score on Kendra Turner’s two-run single up the middle. And Laura Kirk followed Turner’s hit with a base knock of her own, belting an RBI double to left center, giving ’Wood a 4-0 lead.
The Tigers’ bats were back at it again in the top of the second. Maplewood’s first two batters of the inning reached when Ruth Fritz and Merritt recording back-to-back singles. After a Bernoski sacrifice bunt, Nicols delivered with a two-RBI single to right field. Nicols would later come around to score on a sacrifice fly by Abby Sansom.
With a 7-0 lead, Maplewood pitcher Taylor Smith felt right at home.
“Our bats finally came alive,” Smith said. “It is a lot easier to do my job when we hit the ball and score runs. It takes a lot of stress off of me on the mound.”
Smith was pitching stress-free through the first three innings, methodically working her way through the Cambridge lineup. She allowed one base runner through the first three innings on a hit by pitch to McKayla Zilhaver.
Whispers were starting to circulate about a no-hit bid for Smith. She didn’t hear them, though.
“I don’t know,” Smith said about the thoughts of a no-hitter. “You just go in and you pitch. However you warm up is how you are going to pitch.”
Smith faced her first bit of trouble in the fourth inning. With one out, Kargol — who re-entered the game as the designated player after injuring her knee — recorded the first hit of the game for the Blue Devils. Randi Felton followed with a single of her own. And after a fielder’s choice by Kiersten Skelton, White came through with a two-out RBI single to score Felton, making it a 7-1 ball game.
It took Maplewood just a half inning to regain its seven-run lead.
In the top of the fifth, Nicols reached on a leadoff single and came around to score on a RBI single by Turner.
The Tigers had their highest offensive output of the season with the eight runs and 12 hits, including five different players with two hits.
“That’s the first game we had that many hits,” Parker said. “We have actually been struggling a bit offensively. But it is nice to know that we can count on everyone from one to nine to put the ball in play. The team itself works very well together.”
Merritt, Nicols, Turner, Kirk and Fritz each recorded two hits in the game. Turner led the Tigers with three RBIs and Nicols added two.
For Cambridge, Kargol led the team with a 2-for-3 day at the plate and White recorded its lone RBI.
Smith was the winning pitcher for the Tigers, going seven strong innings and allowing one run on four hits and striking out seven.
Smith knows she couldn’t have done it without the stellar performance of the Tiger’s defense behind her.
“I just go out and do my job,” Smith said. “I pitch to get easy ground balls and fly balls for my defense to field. I had a great defense today. I turned around and I said, ‘I love you guys and thank you so much.’”