Sometimes emotion can be a tougher opponent than a pitcher with a nasty changeup.
Last week, the Pulaski County Cougars softball team unfortunately came face-to-face with both. First, Coach Gina Miano’s grandmother passed away midweek and then on Friday a pint-sized junior hurler named Christene Phillips with a monster changeup held the Cougars to just two hits and a single unearned run in an 8-1 decision.
“She definitely kept us off-kilter,” Miano said of Phillips. “But we just didn’t hit well. We wanted to go in aggressive and confident and develop some momentum, but today it was an energy thing.”
The Cougars started promisingly enough as Sara Wright drew a walk to open the game and Jordan Chrisley lined a solid single to left. But then Wright was called out on a close and somewhat controversial fielder’s choice play at third. Chrisley was cut down trying to steal third and Lindsay Hundley struck out to end the threat.
From there, Phillips’ off-speed delivery kept the Cougars well in check as she retired the next 12 Cougars in a row, including three by way of strikeout.
Pulaski spoiled the shutout in the sixth, but certainly not in the way Miano and the Cougars might have hoped. Wright drilled a single to right and stretched it into a double when the throw came in just a little off line.
Chrisley then hit a slow ground ball to shortstop Aimee Royal that looked like a sure third out. But Royal’s throw was in the dirt and skipped past Riley Underwood at first allowing Wright to score.
By then, though, the damage had long been done. Floyd posted three runs in the second on four hits, including a bunt single, a double and a triple. They added two more in the third on two more doubles, a wild pitch and a second hit batter before a nifty double play squelched any further threat.
A three-run home run in the fourth polished off Floyd’s scoring as Karlee Pendleton drilled the first pitch of the inning from Courtney Beville over the fence in left scoring Amanda Whitlow and Phillips ahead of her.
Callie Gregory relieved Beville after the home run and held the Buffs to just one hit, a single in the sixth.
After the game Miano, ever the teaching coach, did her best to deflect the effect of her family loss on her team, instead calling it a learning experience.
“Everybody was a little out of sorts. I’m not going to blame anything that, but we’re learning. We’re much better than we showed today,” Miano said.
So is Floyd seven runs better than Pulaski?
“Today they were,” Miano said. “But overall, I don’t think so.”
In the team huddle after the game Miano introduced 14 things her team will be working for the remainder of the season. Among them, the top three include moving up in the batters box, stealing more bases off the changeup, and developing her young pitching corps.
“We got to see our pitching combo today in a game time situation, which was nice,” Miano said.
Weather permitting the Cougars will have an extra day or two to hone that 14-item list, including that pitching combo. They host Galax Tuesday, March 20 beginning at 5 p.m.