Hailee Rodgers

Cambridge Springs’ Hailee Rodgers winds up for a pitch during a non-region softball game against Conneaut on Monday at Conneaut Area Senior High School. Rodgers helped the Blue Devils build a 7-0 lead through five innings as they went on to beat the Eagles 7-3.

LINESVILLE — The Cambridge Springs softball team had high hopes going into the 2020 season. But those hopes were dashed with the cancelation of spring sports due to COVID-19. 

A year has passed and personnel has changed, but the Lady Blue Devils’ view on the 2021 season hasn’t altered much. They still have big hopes and displayed why on Monday afternoon in their season opener against Conneaut.

First-year starter Hailee Rodgers battled through the elements and kept a red-hot CASH offense in check, and the Blue Devils pounded out 11 hits of their own en route to a 7-3 win over the Eagles.

“It was a total team effort,” Cambridge Springs coach Angie Mumford said. “You saw some all-out plays. Us diving. Double plays. And hustle … I told them I was proud of the hustle down the line. We busted it. How many plays did we get called safe because we hustled it down to first base?

“It was fun. It was just fun.”

And it was cold and wet.

“It started out warm and I was in a t-shirt and now I’m three layers on,” Mumford said.

Ironically, that is similar to how the game unfolded for the Blue Devils. Fortunately for Cambridge Springs, it had build a pretty decent lead before trouble struck.

It was Paige Verbanac who got things started for the Devils. She delivered a leadoff single to start the game. Verbanac put herself in scoring position with a stolen base and cashed in an out later on a single up the middle by Rodgers.

Conneaut did respond with a pair of base hits in the bottom of the first, but couldn’t scrape across a run. 

Cambridge Springs, meanwhile, added on two more in the second. This time it was a leadoff double by Taylor Smith that got things rolling. Linda Shepard struck out the next two batters for strikeouts No. 4 and 5 already on the afternoon, before Kylee Miller hit into an error to plate Smith. Miller then scored on a single by Verbanac to make it a 3-0 lead.

Shepard retired the Devils in order in the third with the help of two more strikeouts. But the Devils didn’t stay quiet long, erupting for three more runs on four hits in the fourth to take a 7-0 advantage. 

Shepard exited the mound in the fourth, allowing six runs — four earned — on eight hits with no walks and seven strikeouts.

While the Devils’ offense was doing its job, Rodgers was doing a fine job of her own preserving the lead.

Through five innings, Rodgers allowed four hits and a walk while striking out three. It was the sixth inning when the sophomore found herself in a little trouble.

Marisa Mead singled to start the sixth. She stole second and advanced to third on a fielder’s choice. Brooke Wise drove in Mead with a single to put the Eagles on the board. Wise also scored in the inning after a pair of passed balls as temperatures continued to drop.

The Eagles got to Rodgers in the seventh inning as well. Eliza Harrington had a one-out single. Erika Shrock was then hit by a pitch and Mead followed with a single scoring Harrington to make it a 7-3 game. That is as close as the Eagles would get, though.

“She pitched a great game,” Mumford said of Rodgers. “When it started to get tough and her hand was starting to get cold, she just buckled in.”

Stifling the Eagles’ bats isn’t an easy task either. Less than a week earlier, Conneaut scored 15 runs with the help of five extra-base hits in a 15-0 three-inning win over Maplewood.

“I came into it knowing we had to keep them off balance,” Mumford said. “That was my goal was to mix speeds enough to keep them off balance.”

Rodgers went all seven innings and allowed three runs on eight hits with two walks and three strikeouts.

Verbanac finished the game 3-for-5 with two RBIs. Chloe Schultz and Taylor Smith had two hits each.

For the Eagles, Mead was 2-for-4 and Wise was 2-for-3.

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