Patriots start, finish strong in win over CatsApril 2, 2019
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
JASPER — Emma Eubank can recall how her softball season ended last year. In fact, it ended on the same field and against the same school the Heritage Hills softball team was battling against on Tuesday evening.
But this time, it was the Patriots who came away with the victory as they rallied for a 5-4 win in eight innings against the host Jasper Wildcats.
How sweet did this victory feel?
“Oh, it felt amazing,” said Eubank, who finished with six strikeouts on the mound for Heritage Hills in the victory. “Our team is going after a regional win this year and we’re looking to make history for our school — we just have to have the mindset of ‘we can do this’.”
Heritage Hills (1-0-1) came out firing on all cylinders as the Patriots sent seven batters to the plate right away in the first inning with four of them coming home to score. Eubank opened the game with a double and shortly after, Lauren Caswell brought her in to score on an RBI double to put the Pats up 1-0. After Mallory Garrison’s RBI single put the Patriots ahead 2-0, left fielder Kyla Peter sent a ball deep over the wall for a two-run home run to put Heritage Hills ahead 4-0 at the end of the first inning.
Something that Patriot head coach Joe Asbury wanted to see more of from his team this season was quick starts. It’s safe to say that they’ve answered that call after their 4-0 start on Tuesday and their 3-0 lead last Friday in a rain-shortened tie game against Northeast Dubois. But after the four-spot in the first inning, the Patriots wouldn’t score again until the eighth inning.
Jasper (3-2) got its first run of the game in the bottom of the first as Grace Colvin drove in Lexie Jerger on an RBI groundout to trim the lead to 4-1. The Cats continued to chomp at the lead in the third inning as Halli Leinenbach drove in Jerger on an RBI single right up the middle to make it just a 4-2 Patriot lead.
Perhaps the most impressive Wildcat run came in the fifth inning. After Megan Matheis grounded out to start the inning, Jerger came up to the plate. She hit a nice shot toward the left field line that looked to be an out but the Patriot left fielder bobbled it and couldn’t hang on. Jerger sped past second and third all the way to home plate to score on the two Heritage Hills errors and trim the lead to 4-3. Jasper ended up tying the game later that inning as pitcher Mia Werner brought home Leinenbach on an RBI single.
“With Grace Werner graduating, we needed someone to step into that role of making quick baserunning decisions and we knew that was going to be Lexie,” Jasper head coach Matt Pryor said. “She always looks to make a double out of a single, a triple out of a double and she’s just never satisfied with one base at a time.”
Heritage Hills and Jasper both had chances to take the lead in their respective at-bats in the sixth inning but both pitchers — Eubank and Werner — forced their opponent into groundouts to end the inning and leave a pair of runners stranded.
The Patriots looked primed to take back the lead in the top of the 7th inning after Eubank and third baseman Brianna Quinn notched back-to-back singles. Then, Pryor had to make a difficult decision for the Cats as he had Werner intentionally walk Caswell to put the bases loaded for Heritage Hills with nobody out.
“I was unsure what to do with their best hitter coming up,” Pryor said. “But when first base opened up I knew it was the best decision to make — it ended up working out.”
Werner forced the Patriots into two consecutive force outs at home plate and then struck out Peter to end the inning and leave the game tied heading into the bottom of the seventh inning.
After Jasper was unable to get much going in the bottom of the seventh, Heritage Hills struck gold in the eighth inning. Second baseman Mariah Zoglman kicked off the inning by reaching on an error and then right fielder Sydney Richards reached on a bunt single. Zoglman scored the winning run after Eubank reached on an error which allowed the run to cross home plate. Eubank then went on to set the Cats down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the eighth inning with two strikeouts to secure the Patriots first victory of the season.
“I just focused on the next pitch and trusted my teammates behind me — I just let it roll,” said Eubank on her mentality for the last two innings. “We just had to relax and keep our minds on top of the game.”
Asbury added: “She’s missing at times and she’s still walked a few people and missed on a few of her pitches. But as the weather gets warmer, she’ll heat up too.”
Eubank struck out six batters while giving up six hits and walking five Jasper hitters. Peter, Garrison and Caswell all had RBIs for the Patriots.
Werner struck out four on the mound for Jasper while giving up seven hits and walking four Patriot batters. Leinenbach, Colvin and Werner all had RBIs offensively for the Cats.
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