Neither cold, nor unfinished dugouts, nor slop of infield could keep Pulaski Cougars and the Auburn Eagles from their appointed softball scrimmage at Randolph Park Monday afternoon.
Okay, so it’s not exactly postal slogan worthy, but the Lady Cougars did manage to put — wait for it – a positive stamp of sorts on the start of their 2013 softball season with a 6-5 win over the Eagles.
Sure the game was played on an infield more suited for, say, a horse race or at least an afternoon of mud bogging. Sure the game didn’t count; and sure it was cold. But other than that, the early clash of two senior-laden softball titans had all the drama of a game you’d expect to see in, say, late May, as in the playoffs.
There was back-and-forth action. There were pitching changes. And there was even an inside-the-park home run.
About midway through the game, senior Brooke Hundley drilled a pitch over the left fielder’s glove and just kept running. By the time the Eagles got the ball back into the infield Hundley was nearly home and scored easily.
“She really nailed it,” said Coach Gina Miano. “That probably would have been out of the park at our field. She tends to dip (her shoulder) and she’s really been working on standing up tall and there was a complete difference even from her first at-bat. She made a great adjustment.”
And in the end there was a rally to win the game. With two out and runners at second and third, junior Marissa Stephens, who everybody calls “Rookie” because it’s her first year on varsity, hit a little seeing-eye flare that landed just past the outstretched glove of Auburn’s pitcher Madison Shumaker scoring Sara Wright for the winning run.
“She got the bat on the ball every time she was up. I was really pleased,” Miano said.
Miano’s goal for Monday’s scrimmage was to get her squad away from their indoor pitching machines. So far bad weather has hampered even the best laid plans of coaches and players, limiting outdoor work to just a few days.
“We needed to see live pitching,” Miano said. “I knew there would be some defensive issues, but we’ve been working on our hitting and pitch selection is huge. You can’t get that until you get out there and see it.”
As for those defensive issues, Miano pointed to the small things that often spell the difference between contenders and pretenders.
“We need to concentrate on appropriate back-up situations and our short game, like bunting, slapping (the ball to) move the runners over,” Miano said.
She was also thrilled with her relatively young pitching staff of Courtney Beville and Callie Gregory. Beville started against Auburn and Gregory relieved her in the fourth. Beville re-entered the game after Gregory tweaked a nagging back injury.
“I’m very excited. This was Courtney’s first varsity start. She gave a really good effort and hit her spots very well. And they both hit the ball well too,” Miano said.
Overall, Miano was pleased with her first look at this year’s veteran squad.
“We did well. There are a lot of things we need to work on defensively. We got some hits off three different pitchers and I was pleased with that. But we still need to work on our bunting,” Miano said.
The Cougars will get one more chance to shore up their game plan for the regular season in a scrimmage against Glenvar scheduled for Friday, March 4 at Randolph Park beginning at 4 p.m.
Pulaski is slated to open the regular season Monday March 11 at Patrick Henry. The Cougars’ first home game is scheduled for Wednesday, March 13 versus Radford.