Triple play not enough as LHS softball drops twinbill
The Lansing High softball team hit both ends of the defensive spectrum Friday afternoon when it was swept by Mill Valley in its home opener.
The Lions (2-2) committed four costly errors during their 5-4 loss in game one. The LHS defense improved drastically in game two, however, as the Lions recorded one of the rarest plays in softball - a triple play. Mill Valley's bats were far too hot, though, as the Jaguars took game two, 8-2.
"If we play errorless ball, it's tough to beat us," LHS coach Terry Cornett said. "We made a couple errors that nearly got us the other night up at Atchison. You make four errors in one game at pivotal times, you just can't."
Mill Valley showed plenty of pop in its bats early in game one as it scored a first-inning run thanks to a triple and a double. Lansing struck back in the bottom of the inning, though, as Nicole Holland smacked a lead-off single and Amanda Darrow reached base on an error. Holland and Darrow both scored when Dana Sanders reached base on an error.
A second-inning error didn't hurt the Lions, but one did in the third as Mill Valley's leadoff hitter reached base on a throwing error at shortstop and later scored.
LHS capitalized on a Mill Valley error and retook the lead in the bottom of the fifth when Darrow reached base on an error, stole second and then scored on Jessica Kane' single. The error bug restruck Lansing in the top of the sixth, though, and this time it proved to be the killer. Kane, the Lions' starting pitcher, forced the Jaguars' first two players to fly out, but then an error at shortstop caused the flood gates to open. Back-to-back singles and a double followed and Mill Valley scored three times for a 5-3 lead.
Lansing's rally in the bottom of the seventh fell just short. Darrow smacked a lead-off single. Maggie Aus singled. Then Kane blasted another single and scored Darrow from second. It seemed LHS was poised to steal the victory, but Sanders grounded out and then Jessica Holland grounded out. As Holland was racing to first, Cornett elected to send Aus home from third to try to tie the game. In a bang-bang play, Aus was called out and the game ended with the solid bat of freshman Morgan Chiles waiting on deck.
"I kind of fault myself," Cornett said. "I say, 'if I sent Mags and the girl makes a bad throw, she's there and we tie.' I realize I had Morgan Chiles coming up, but, I don't know. The girl made one good throw from third to first, and I thought maybe when I hollered go maybe that'd get her attention away from making a good throw. The best throw was the one from first to home. Right on the money. You make those decisions and you've got to live with 'em."
Although Mill Valley scored five runs off of Kane, only one of those runs was earned. The rest were unearned because of errors.
The Lions corrected most of their defensive mistakes in game two, but Mill Valley simply hit the ball too well off of Sanders in the nightcap. The Jaguars scored once in the first, fourth and fifth innings and then piled on five runs in the top of the sixth as a result of five hits. Lansing mustered just two runs off of seven hits as both Sanders and Darrow scored.
The lone bright spot for the Lions in game two came in the top of the fifth inning. Mill Valley's first three batters reached base and one scored. The inning looked like it was about to turn ugly, but then a sharply hit line drive was ripped toward second base. Darrow lunged to her left and snagged the ball for an out. She wheeled and flipped it to Kane. Kane, now playing shortstop, was covering second and she stepped on the bag for the force out. Mill Valley tried to sneak home its runner from third on the play, however, and Kane saw it and quickly fired a bullet to Aus who made the tag at the plate just in time.
"That was pretty cool," Aus said. "That was probably the highlight of the game. That was fun."
Said Darrow: "It was awesome!"
The twinbill was frustrating for LHS for a number of reasons. First, it initially was supposed to be played Thursday but was rained out. Second, four of the Lions' everyday starters were unavailable to play, with the most critical absence being junior catcher Nichole Twitchell who was out with an undisclosed illness. Twitchell boasts Lansing's top bat and blasted a pair of home runs in the season-opening doubleheader Tuesday at Atchison as LHS won both games.
"Twitchell: we really miss her bad," Cornett said.
With the numerous player absences, many Lions were forced to play out of position. Aus moved from third to catcher. Chiles filled in at third. Jasmine Holland started in left field and freshman Sara Logan was called up from the junior varsity to start in right field. Cornett said all of the players gave admirable performances in their new positions, but he couldn't say enough about the showing Logan made in right field.
Logan was pulled off the JV field shortly before the varsity game began and then she responded by playing near-flawless defense. A half-dozen sharp line-drives were hit her way and she made every catch. Cornett also raved about a ball she didn't catch when, in the fourth inning of game two, a Mill Valley player hit a shot to opposite field. The ball pulled away from Logan and hit the ground near the first-base line. Logan came within inches of making the difficult catch, however, as she sprinted after it and launched into a head-first dive and almost got to the uncatchable ball. The freshman got the job done with her bat, too, as she laid down two timely bunts to advance runners.
"She put two bunts down. Offensively I knew that would be her Achilles heel, but she put two bunts down," Cornett said of Logan. "(She) caught four or five, and then nearly made a superb catch over here, but it wasn't to be, but she's a fighter."
LHS next plays at 4:30 p.m. Thursday against Bonner Springs at Lansing City Park.