Lady Bobcats prove there’s life after Holland
Erin Shore stepped to the mound and kicked the dirt.
She placed her hand in her glove and grasped the ball as she looked to the catcher for a sign. She took a breath and let it rip.
The scene was innocuous, as far as softball goes, but this pitch was unique and symbolic on two levels. Most importantly, it was the first pitch of the season. It also happened to be the first pitch thrown by a Basehor-Linwood softball player not named Kristal Holland in more than three years.
"I was very nervous," Shore said. "I figured after the first pitch that I would be fine and I was."
Shore said she was nervous at the beginning of practice in late February when she knew the responsibility of being the team's ace would fall on her shoulders.
"Oh, I was nervous, because those are big shoes to fill," Shore said. "I am just going to go in and try my best to help the team."
Shore surrendered 12 hits in six innings of work as the Lady 'Cats dropped the opener to Mill Valley, 7-4. She logged eight strikeouts on the mound and also scored two of the team's runs on offense. Shore finished 1-for-3 with a walk.
"We lost, but I was pleased with the way Erin pitched," BLHS coach Susan Mayberry said.
Mayberry didn't find it disconcerting to be peering out at a new pitcher from the dugout.
"Not really. We knew the time would come where Kristal would graduate," Mayberry said. "Erin has taken over that role for the team. She has prepared and worked hard in practice. She has worked on her pitches and her location. If I had any jitters, they were opening-day jitters. It was more excitement than jitters."
The game was tied at two when Shore encountered a trouble-filled third inning. The Jaguars put four runs on the board to seize control of the game.
"They had the one big inning where they strung together some hits," Mayberry said. "Part of that is on her, and part of it is on the defense. I thought she bounced back well."
Indeed, Shore only gave up one more run.
The BLHS offense confounded its coach. After scoring two runs in the first inning, the team didn't dent the scoreboard again until the seventh.
"We started off hitting pretty aggressively, but in the middle innings for some reason we got off balance and got out of our game plan," Mayberry said. "We made some adjustments at the plate in the later innings and they paid off. If we can just make the adjustments sooner it will help us because we can play defense and we have the pitching; we just have to get our bats going."
Mayberry believed the problem stemmed from early-season meekness at the plate.
"I think we could have been more aggressive with pitches that were in the zone," she said. "We watched some called third strikes. That isn't the way we play the game. Obviously, with runners on base, we don't like not to have a chance to get the bat on the ball."
The Lady 'Cats made the game interesting in the seventh. Down to their last out and trailing 7-2, Chelsey Patton hit a two-run double. Patton finished 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles. She also recorded 3 RBIs. Kara Douglas struck out to end the game.
Did the dugout think a magical two-out, opening day rally was upon them?
"Oh yeah," Mayberry said. "It isn't over until it's over, and we are that kind of team. We have been down before and rallied to come back. We definitely have the lineup that is capable of doing that. That is why you play the game. We will never give in to defeat; we will play until the last out. Hopefully, we will learn from this and move on."
The pitcher that began the game with butterflies in her stomach ended it as another veteran ready for another game.
"We figured out what we need to do," Shore said. "Starting out, I think we had jitters. We will try to carry out this season better than we did in the first game."
Those words rang true in the nightcap, as the Lady Bobcats scored two runs in the top of the seventh to turn a 5-4 deficit into a 6-5 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, BLHS held on for victory, moving its record to 1-1 on the season.