Floyd Central cruises past Lady Cats
By Wade Bell, Sports Writer
Going into their softball game last Wednesday against the North Harrison Lady Cats, the visiting Floyd Central Lady Highlanders had already put 15 runs on the board the day before in a shutout over West Washington. Meanwhile, the Lady Cats were opening their season at home. After a competitive first inning, the Lady Highlanders exploded with their bats for 14 more runs in a 14-2 win over the Lady Cats.
“We felt confident in ourselves coming in,” said Floyd Central coach Sean Payne. “You never really know when it’s been 677 days. I’ve been telling everybody that I think we’re going to have a great defense and hit the ball. That shows and, with our pitching, it will win us some games. The pitching staff has been spot on for us to start the year.”
“I told them in the huddle there is nothing to hang their heads about,” said North Harrison coach Haley Book. “Floyd was going to hit the ball; we knew that. Being off for two years and coming back, I really have nothing but good things to say. There’s, obviously, a few things we need to work on, and that’s always going to happen with the first game.”
Floyd Central put four players at the plate in its first at-bat with Kylie Franks punching in a single and stealing second. She would get no farther, however, as Riley Chumbley struck out and Kendall Brown flied out to centerfield.
The Lady Cats had a better first at-bat, getting on the board first. Chloe Shewmaker walked then, with one out, Ashley Blackburn singled. Andrea Ness singled to score Shewmaker, and Emily Ingle singled to load the bases. North Harrison failed to convert any more runs but had a 1-0 lead at the end of the first inning.
“I think we woke them up,” said North Harrison assistant coach Colin Book, expecting something to happen next.
It did. Macy Wilkins started off with a hot liner for a single. Erica Endris followed with another single, then Kaitlyn Klain laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners. Lavin Osborne walked to load the bases. Alissa Flick laid down a bunt single scoring courtesy runner Kate Satkoski. Peyton Drummond also bunted safely on scoring Endris. Franks followed with a single to score Klain.
Chumbley was hit by a pitch, loading the bases once again. Brown then singled and used some aggressive base running to confuse the Lady Cats to push all four runs across the plate. Wilkins came to bat again and this time ripped a shot that bounced off the top of the fence for a home run and an 8-1 lead.
“It was really just getting on with that first one,” Payne said. “Then we were able to small-ball them a little bit. The small ball then turns into the big flies. This whole season we’ve worked on this whole team approach at-bat. The last several years we’ve fell in love with the deep ball, which we’re still good at, obviously, but it was all or nothing. This year we’ve worked on team first at-bats, and it’s paying off so far.”
“It’s a completely different team,” Book said. “We have four or five returners from our team two years ago. Really, we just stressed enjoy the game. Enjoy it. Have fun while you’re out here. Work hard. Most of it is just enjoy what we missed a year, and we’re just fighting to get back on the dirt at this point.”
North Harrison went three up and out in the bottom of the second.
In the top of the third, the Lady Highlanders added more runs to their total. It started out with Osborne belting a home run well over the centerfield fence. Flick followed with a walk and stole second. Franks bunted safely on following a North Harrison error and went to third as Flick ran in to score. Chumbley reached first on a fielder’s choice. With two outs, Brown looped a single. Wilkins also singled scoring Chumbley and Brown, and Floyd Central’s lead ballooned to 12-1.
The Lady Cats got one of those back in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Blackburn and Ness were hit by pitches. Ingle popped out, but Maddie Ivey singled scoring Blackburn, shortening the Floyd Central lead by one, 12-2.
Floyd Central added two more runs in the top of the fifth with four hits and more aggressive base running. North Harrison managed just a single base runner in the bottom of the inning and succumbed to the Lady Highlanders by a final 14-2 score.
“The girls came in and did a really good job,” Payne said. “We have a really good group of kids. We just talked about the approach, and the girls talked to each other about recognizing the strike zone … This year we’ve talked about kicking it up a notch. There’s trust in me and trust in themselves that they’re good ball players, and we’ve got a good coaching staff and we know when to push the gas.”
“Overall, I was pleased with the performance,” said Book. “I thought we hit the ball well. I thought we put the ball in play and made the defense work.”
Floyd Central finished with 14 hits for the game, with Brown and Wilkins hitting for three each and Franks and Endris for two hits each. Erica McCullough and Flick combined for three strikeouts, two walks and two hit batters. The Lady Highlanders left five runners on base and had no errors.
“At our scrimmage, I told them not to be afraid to take chances,” Payne said. “I’m not going to get mad. I run us out of innings at times. It’s just part of being aggressive. The game favors the aggressors, in my opinion, so we live and die by that fighter mentality of just go. They’ve done a great job these first two games.”
North Harrison totaled four hits from four different players. Blackburn struck out one, walked three and hit one Floyd Central batter. The Lady Cats left six runners on base and had one error. Book said Blackburn was not happy with her performance.
“Tonight was not her best night,” said Book. “We told her that. It wasn’t her best outing, but she made it work and kept us in the game. That’s all we can ask her to do. On Ashton’s best night, that’s a different ballgame.”
After last season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both teams are coming in with new players with less experience at the varsity level.
“Twenty-two of our 30 kids are new to the program,” Payne said. “They’ve never put on a Floyd uniform. This year has been really talking to them about what Floyd Central softball really is and making sure we don’t lose sight of that. They play for a program that has high expectations, and they just didn’t know how to work very hard in the pre-season. It’s been all about teaching them our expectations and how to do things.”
“We have quite a few starters that didn’t start for me two years ago, so the big thing is communication and just working the defense, knowing what to do when they get the ball and talking to each other,” said Book. “I told them in the huddle a lot of it tonight was just knocking off the nerves, getting the nerves out of our system and knocking the rust off and just take it play by play.
“Be aggressive and want the ball,” she said. “That’s the biggest thing for our defense. Always want the ball, always want the ball to come to you so you can make that play. It’s just something we’re going to keep working on and work on in practice and stress it and build confidence in our girls.”
Floyd Central 084 02 – 14 15 0
North Harrison 101 00 – 2 4 1
W-McCollough, L-Blackburn; 1B-Franks (FC) 2, Blackburn (NH), Ness (NH), Ingle (NH), Wilkins (FC) 3. Endris (FC) 2, Flick (FC), Drummond (FC), Brown (FC) 2, Ivey (NH); 2B-Brown (FC), Drummond (FC); HR-Wilkins (FC), Osborne (FC).