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Wright Homer Sets Tone for Cougar Rout

550013_629871130372602_1291423816_nBy Ben Hanneman

One swing.

That’s all anybody really needs to know about the Lady Cougars’ five-inning 14-3 win over Galax Tuesday. Except for maybe the wind. Gale-force gusts made it tough to walk let alone make a play on anything in the air. Several clearly foul balls for both teams were blown back into fair territory.

Wind or not, though, Sara Wright, a force at the plate in her own right, jumped all over the first pitch of the game – the first regular season pitch to a Pulaski player at the newly renovated field, by the way — from Holly Cassel and drilled it some 230 feet over the center field fence. In fact, without the wind the ball may still be traveling.

“Sara doesn’t ‘need’ home runs, but she’s needed some solid hits and that was a Sara hit, nice and solid. She creamed it,” said head coach Gina Miano.

Wright’s opening blast ignited a five-run first inning and set the tone for Pulaski’s first win this year and the most lopsided home field victory since dropping Christiansburg 8-1 in May 2012. Wright finished 2-for-3 with one run batted in and three runs scored.

More importantly Tuesday’s win liberated a team noticeably bogged down by grief and early-season sluggishness.

“You need a game like this to work on a few things and gain some confidence. We’ve been working a lot on the mental part of the game lately. We got off the skill stuff and figured out how to relax a little and to apply it. We needed a game like this to practice that,” said Coach Gina Miano.

Tuesday’s game was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but was moved back a day based on the sunny forecast, which can be more important than batting practice some days, Miano hinted.

“Getting outside’s huge. Kids just go crazy when they get outside and see the sun. I know it was freezing, but we couldn’t pass it up because we don’t have sun for another week,” she said.

And while her teammates were going crazy with the runs, starting pitcher Callie Gregory rang up impressive pitch after impressive pitch. The sophomore hurler gave up just three runs while striking out at least one batter per inning, six in all. Gregory walked only one batter in five innings, which Miano said was much needed this early in the year.

“Callie has been working hard on pulling her leg through (her pitching motion), which alleviates the back (injury) issue and I felt like she did a really nice job with that today,” Miano said.

On top of that, Miano added, Gregory got some much-coveted help from her teammates for the first time this year and even helped her own cause with some key defensive stops on balls hit back to her.

“Callie played more confidently today. The more you do things the better you feel about them. Even her body language was better. Confidence gets you in those zones,” Miano said.

And speaking of zones, after Wright’s game opening homer Jordan Chrisley kept the Cougars in the hitting zone with a single to left. She took third on Chelsea Golden’s sacrifice bunt and scored on a Brooke Hundley single up the middle. Hundley stole second and went to third on a passed ball.

Kelli Duncan and Marissa Stephens each walked to load the bases and Callie Gregory drove in Hundley with a groundout to shortstop Taylor Cummings. Carlie Brewer’s single to left plated Duncan and Stephens and the rout was on.

In the second inning after Gregory speared a line drive and then struck out Taylor Ashworth for the second and third outs, Wright stepped to the plate, thoughts of another home run no doubt circling the bases in her head. And she came close. This time, though, the ball hit the left field fence for a double just two feet shy of her second round-tripper in as many swings.

Wright scored when Chrisley walked and came home herself on a plethora of Galax fielding errors, perhaps the first time in high school softball history when a player walked and then scored on the same play.

Two batters later Hundley doubled to center and then scored on two more throwing errors. At the end of just two innings the Cougars led Galax 8-0.

Galax spoiled the shutout in the third with two runs on a couple of Cougar errors, two singles and a double. The Tide added an unearned run as Cassel, who reached on a wind-aided error, scored on a Morgan Neff single. But then Gregory, as if to say “Enough is enough,” struck out Brooklyn Key to end the game.

Asked about the first pitch the Galax player tried to sneak past her, Wright simply smiled and said, “It was sweet!”

No doubt so was the win.

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