Pats fluidly stitch expected 'boo-boos’

Carolyn Van Houten/The Herald
Heritage Hills’ Rebeka Mercker (4) jumped and high-fived Gina Wahl during introductions for Friday’s season-opening softball game for both the Patriots and Northeast Dubois in Lincoln City. Heritage Hills bolted to a five-run lead and survived a fifth-inning push by the Jeeps to win 6-3. For a gallery of photos, click here.

Herald Sports Writer

LINCOLN CITY — Heritage Hills softball coach Joe Asbury said he expected to see some “boo-boos.”

Not as in cuts and scratches, but blunders, gaffes, errors — the kind of mistakes that seem likely for any team in its season opener. But especially for a squad like the Patriots, who are in the midst of a roster rehaul after the departure of seven starters to graduation.


Although, what Asbury got for most of Friday evening’s tilt against Northeast Dubois was the sturdy pitching of a proven ace, rips from the big bat of last year’s leading hitter and, probably most promising, a won’t-blink attitude from a newly minted starter. In the end, the Pats’ initial 5-0 lead, threatened only once by a five-hit inning from the Jeeps, turned into a 6-3 win and a solid step for a team looking to establish some initial footing.

“We’re going to have some inconsistency. Kaitlin (Kralj) got some experience and Kayala (Hoppenjans returns) at third, but everybody else is new for varsity,” Asbury said. “They’re talented enough, but it’s going to take a few weeks before everyone is really confident about what they’re doing all the time and making good decisions.”

It seems odd to sound so restrained when the Pats (1-0) racked up 12 hits, including spotless lines from Hoppenjans (3-for-3 with two RBIs) and sophomore Jamie Tempel (4-for-4 with one RBI), but 10 of those hits came from the Patriots’ first four batters. Positions five through nine — all newbies — went 2-for-14 with one run scored.

The one newcomer who needed no time to acclimate, though, was Tempel. She scored the first of Heritage Hills’ three runs in the first inning after a wild pitch from Michelle Seitz (0-1). She crossed home plate again in the second, along with the team’s third senior Gina Wahl (2-for-3), after a double to left from Hoppenjans that pushed the Patriots up 5-0.


And when Kralj (1-0) left the circle after the fifth inning, Tempel replaced her and allowed just one hit in two innings. In the the seventh, she fanned all three Jeep batters.

“Jamie did a great job. She’s going to pitch a lot for us this year and we have confidence in her,” Asbury said.

For the first-year starter, there were scarcely any nerves on the mound, only the goal of trying to correct a baserunning error in the sixth inning.

“I was thinking I had to make up the error of going to second when I shouldn’t have,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve got to get these outs for sure.”

“She’s got a ton of experience; it’s just not playing varsity for us,” Asbury added. “She played JV for us last year behind a whole bunch of seniors and she played a lot of travel (softball) and she’s got a lot of experience. We’ve got several kids like that. We’re just trying to get a good mesh with our team and what can contribute.”

The Jeeps tested the Patriots with an uprising of hits in the fifth inning. Before Chloe Johnson blooped a single in shallow centerfield, Kralj had held Northeast Dubois hitless with seven strikeouts. But Johnson’s single was followed by an error when Taylor Knight poked the ball in play to second base. Freshman Carly Terwiske knocked the pair in with a single to right field, then scored from third on Emily Lueken’s groundout. It was the first sign of life for the Jeeps at the plate.

“It’s your first game of the season; the first live pitching we’ve actually seen,” Jeep coach Larry Wineinger said. “You practice hitting off a machine every day (and) really don’t know what to expect coming into the game, but after about two or three times up, we started making contact.”

That sudden jolt in hitting was the only real action for the Jeeps. Tempel knocked in Kayley Bauer with an RBI single in the sixth for the final 6-3 lead, but for a team without its usual ace (Kendra Jacob was out with sickness) and starting two freshmen, it was the closest thing to a moral victory Wineinger could expect in his team’s opener.

“Even though it’s a loss, it’s a confidence builder. Our girls were really positive about the outcome because the last two years, (Heritage Hills) run-ruled us and we got down 5-0 and we didn’t give up. We kept battling and making plays and staying in the game,” Wineinger said. “And that’s all you can expect. Just play hard and whatever happens, happens.”

It’s the same type of attitude Asbury has with his bevy of young talent. The Pats will continue to tinker with lineups, but Asbury is confident he has most of it intact right now.

“We’ve got young kids. We’ve got a couple kids that are playing JV and wanting to play, too, so we’ll mix it up. But at the same time, we have confidence in the kids that played tonight,” Asbury said. “Nobody did anything that was horrible. We didn’t have any awful strikeouts or anything. ... We’ll move forward and those kids will make plays.”

Contact Joseph Fanelli

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