March 27, 2019The Floyd Central Lady Highlanders softball team got its season off to a good start last Tuesday afternoon when it held off a scrappy team from Pleasure Ridge Park from across the Ohio River for a 4-3 win. Floyd Central had to shake off some rust in the early going but came on strong at the end.
"Since I've been here, we've added them to the schedule and they've been our first game," Floyd Central coach Sean Payne said. "It's a really good opponent for us to start a game out with because they do have some talent and they're well coached. It's been good playing them to start early."
After the Lady Panthers got a hit in their first at-bat but failed to round the bases, the Lady Highlanders drew first blood their first time at the plate. With one out, Molly Sneed singled, stole second and went to third on a passed ball. With two outs, Dallas Henderson ripped a double to score Sneed.
Both teams blanked in the second, then PRP threatened with two runners in the top of the third, but went scoreless.
Floyd Central gave itself a little more breathing room in the bottom of the inning. Bailey McClean smacked an infield single, stole second and went to third on a passed ball. Catcher Taryn Weddle walked and also stole second. Sneed hit a long fly ball to left field, and McClean scored on the tag for a 2-0 lead.
Cassie Thomerson was hit by a pitch and Henderson walked. The Floyd Central pair then advanced on a passed ball with Liz Ford at the plate. Ford popped up for the second out, but with Erica Endris in the batter's box, Weddle broke for home on a passed ball, and the Lady Highlanders had a 3-0 lead after three innings.
Neither team scored in the fourth inning, but the Lady Panthers made a charge in the fifth. Shayla Muss and Mackenzie Luckett both bunted on safely, putting PRP in scoring position. Calysta Crum hit on safely, but courtesy runner Emily Hall was called out for interference. Bratcher ripped a double to score Muss and Grum. Breanna Day singled to score runner Sydney Shouse, and Floyd Central suddenly found itself in a 3-all tie.
"They hadn't done it a whole lot tonight," Payne said of PRP's short game. "They did a couple of times early. The second one should have been an out. We just didn't complete the play. If we complete that play, they probably don't score that inning. They did a good job laying some bunts down. We tried to do it, but we just didn't execute when we were supposed to."
Floyd Central cranked up its bats a little bit tighter in the bottom of the fifth. With one out, Thomerson rippled a double, putting the go-ahead run on base. It didn't take long to get the score, with Henderson getting on board with a single to score Thomerson.
Emma Koopman came in to run for Henderson, stealing second. With Riley Chumbley at the plate, Koopman stole third and broke for home. Bratcher was there with the ball, however, and Koopman was tagged out, leaving the score at 4-3.
After a scoreless sixth inning, PRP put a runner on base in the top of the seventh but failed to convert, and the Lady Highlanders had the 4-3 win.
"The defense played great tonight," Payne said. "This was an aggressive team … As far as (the) first game, I'll take a win any way when we have a rough night for one of our big hitters like that."
The Lady Highlanders finished with five hits, with Henderson getting two of those with her single and double. Pitchers Abby Letson and Madison Wathen combined for seven strikeouts and one hit batter. Floyd Central had one error and left five runners on base.
"We only got production out of one of our big hitters today," Payne said. "It wasn't a bad approach or anything like that. We just barely missed on a few balls. Instead of home runs, they were towering fly balls to the outfield. It definitely was tighter. Part of that was Abby's back started tightening up with this cold weather, and I asked her to give me one more inning, and that obviously stretched her a little bit. I should have went ahead with my gut and pulled her."
Payne said Letson and Wathen will give teams a lot of headaches this season from the circle.
"They're both studs," he said. "We're blessed to have them. This early in the season I don't expect them to go full games, but having both of them there enabled us to shut the door on them. It's nice to have. I'm expecting a big year from both of them."
Pleasure Ridge Park finished with seven hits, with Luckett getting three and Day two. Luckett struck out four, walked four and hit one Floyd Central batter. The Lady Panthers had no errors and also left five runners on base.
"There was some breakdowns on signs," Payne said. "We're implementing a new system there. There's things that we can learn from that are very, very minor. I think, overall, it was a well-played game. We were pretty sharp. For our first game, that's a good day."
"We've just got to come out and get better and get our timing better," he said. "Once our timing's here, if we pitch and play defense like that, Madison and Abby in the circle, we're going to win a lot of games."
The following night the Lady Highlanders' had their timing back in form, crushing the Lady Wildcats of Jasper 23-0 in five innings. Floyd Central had seven home runs, with Henderson getting three, Thomerson one and Taryn Weddle three, including a grand slam.
In a tournament over the weekend in Tennessee, the Lady Highlanders added nine more home runs, including a grand slam by Thomerson to make their total 16 for the first week of the season.
Pleasure Ridge Park 000 030 0 - 3 7 0
Floyd Central 102 010 X - 4 5 1
W-Madison Wathen. L-Makenzie Luckett. 1B-Luckett (PRP) 2, Day (PRP), Grum (PRP), Muss (PRP) Sneed (FC), Bratcher (PRP), Henderson (FC), McClean (FC); 2B-Henderson (FC), Luckett (PRP) Thomerson (FC). Records-Floyd Central 1-0, Pleasure Ridge Park 0-1.