Top to bottom, Patriots push on

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Heritage Hills’ Savannah Mundy slid into home plate to score the Patriots’ first run as Evansville North’s Mariah Elliott lost the ball Wednesday night at Lincoln City. Mundy notched a triple and scored twice, driving the Class 3A No. 8 Patriots to a 3-1 victory. For a  gallery of photos, click here.

By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer

LINCOLN CITY — When Savannah Mundy dug into the batter’s box in the bottom of the third inning Wednesday, she knew time was limited. The opportunity each pitch presented was magnified.

So the energized Heritage Hills second baseman wasted no time at all in her first at-bat.

The first pitch zipped in high and outside. No matter, the senior jumped at the offering, stinging it the opposite way down the right-field line and zipping to third base for a stand-up triple.

As Patriot coach Joe Asbury dubbed the liner, “That was the big hit that got us going,” as Class 3A No. 8 Heritage Hills tallied two runs in the third inning and never relented the lead in a 6-1 extinguishing of Evansville North in Lincoln City.

Mundy, batting in the ninth spot in the lineup, hasn’t seen many plate appearances with Cadie DellaMorta typically in the lineup. But with DellaMorta home sick, Asbury decided to give Mundy cuts at the bottom of the order.

“I kind of stepped up there and was like, ”˜If I’m going to do it, I might as well do it now. It’s now or never,’” Mundy said. “I saw that pitch and just drove it.”

When Hayli Scott then squirted a ball to North third baseman Shay Harrington, Mundy dauntlessly darted for home. When the throw came home, she dove headfirst just to the right of the catcher blocking the plate.

Talking about her teammate’s gutsy slide, Scott laughed and explained that the semireckless mindset is communal among the Patriots (13-3).

“Let’s get in there. We’ve got this,” Scott explained in describing the team’s ethos. “All the team carries that attitude and it worked out very well for us.”

Similarly beneficial has been the production of Patriots in the bottom third of the order. In their 3-0 quelling of North Posy on Tuesday, No. 8 hitter Ashley Bauer crushed a home run, and Megan Ficker engineered a 3-for-3 night behind Bauer, including a pair of triples and a double.

“We’re real happy with kids up and down our lineup being productive and not putting too much pressure on somebody to carry the load,” Asbury said.

Mundy and Scott each scored twice during the chilly Wednesday night contest. And the one-through-nine cooperation paid dividends all night, as players batting sixth or lower scored four of the Patriot runs. Meanwhile, all of Heritage Hills’ four RBIs came from the top of the lineup, including Kaitlin Kralj’s two RBI singles in the sixth inning.

“It’s just a huge confidence-builder for everyone within the lineup because we know if we go up there and struggle, we’ve got the girl behind us who can pick us up,” Scott said.

Even if the first couple innings bore little production — North pitcher Megan Wade retired seven of the first eight Patriots — it doesn’t mean the at-bats were unproductive, Mundy said.

She sees the end-of-order yield as a byproduct of communication from top to bottom. Before stepping in for her first at-bat in the third, she already knew Wade alternated pitches outside and then in, and located pitches about three-fourths of the way off the plate.

Scott’s fourth-inning RBI double roped down the left-field line served as the Pats’ only other extra-base knock and one of only four hits in the contest for the home crew. Not that Kralj needed much to work with in the circle.

The hurler pitched her sixth straight complete game — a streak that’s included two no-hitters — and retired the first 11 North batters she faced. Though she surrendered a double followed by a triple in the fourth to concede the Huskies’ lone run, Kralj (13-3) responded by sitting down the next eight batters she faced.

Excluding the fourth-inning double and triple, only one Husky sent a ball into the outfield. Kralj compiled six strikeouts, the final coming on a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play to end the game, as Scott rifled the ball to shortstop Abby Fischer at second to escape a situation with runners on the corners and no outs.

In collecting the three wins since Monday, the Patriots have won seven straight outings and 11 of 12 since starting the season 2-2. What stood out to Asbury hasn’t been so much the production — the Pats have outscored their opponents 38-4 over the last five contests — as their unflappable psyche.

“We’re about halfway through the season, and for us, we have a long weekend now,” said Asbury, whose team returns to the field Tuesday against Southridge (5-6) at home. “So it’s a good time to take a deep breath and compliment them. I told them I like their mental and emotional approach to each game, and I like the chemistry they’re developing. And we all agreed that we’re getting better each week. So when you’re doing those three things, then you feel pretty good about where you’re moving, where you’re going.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.




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