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Cougars Wield Big Sticks in Another Double-Digit Win

By Ben Hanneman 904349_639718042721244_1147145883_o

Momentum. The Big Mo. The Mighty Mojo.

Whatever you want to call it, momentum can spit in your face or be your best friend.

Lately, the Pulaski County Lady Cougars softball mojo has been trending positively, thanks in large part to warmer climes – finally.

On Monday against Patrick Henry Pulaski’s bats emerged from hibernation with a vengeance as the Cougars clubbed the Patriots by 10 runs in a mercy-rule shortened contest. The trend continued Tuesday with another much-needed double-digit victory, this one a 16-5 decision over Galax.

And just like that, what could easily have been a disastrous 1-5 record had the bad mojo of two season-opening losses to Patrick Henry, 8-7, and Floyd County, 8-1, continued, looks a little more manageable at 3-3.

“Three wins looks a whole lot better than 1-5,” said Coach Gina Miano after Tuesday’s road win.

And like any good team on the rise there have been several key components in their recent success; senior Sara Wright for one.

The Cougars’ former leadoff hitter, who’s hitting second but may end up hitting cleanup before much longer, may want to guard against standing near any dry grass or cords of wood. She’s been on fire lately at the plate and Tuesday was no exception.

After driving in four runs on Monday against Patrick Henry Wright went 3-for-5 against the Maroon Tide – a team the Cougars handled easily the last time in a 14-3 win, by the way.

One of those hits was a home run, Wright’s third round-tripper over the fence this season. She hit it to centerfield in the seventh inning with juniors Leah Nichols and Lauren King aboard.

“You want to play everybody, so any kind of experience when we can give it to them is big. It’s a confidence booster for them and plus we can kind of see what’s going on and what they’re doing,” Miano said of her two utility players.

Nichols was hit by a pitch just above her left ankle and King singled up the middle.

“That was a really good hit, not like she got lucky. She hit it well,” Miano said.

Later in the frame both Nichols and King later stole bases to move into scoring position. But it didn’t really matter as Wright drove them both home with a drive to center that cleared the fence by some six feet.

Wright has now driven in eight runs in the last two games, a trend Miano fully expects to continue, especially now that the weather is cooperating.

“She’s really hitting the ball well lately,” Miano said.

And don’t forget about leadoff hitter Jordan Chrisley, another senior. Since moving to the top spot in the batting order a couple of games ago Chrisley has been on almost as torrid a hitting pace as her classmate. After nearly hitting for the cycle against Patrick Henry Monday – like Wright she only needed a triple – Chrisley went 2-for-4 against Galax including a double and a triple. She also scored three runs.

Senior Kelli Duncan and sophomore Chelsea Golden also recorded hits versus Galax and each scored at least one run. Duncan scored two runs against the Maroon Tide, as did senior Brooke Hundley.

Golden has been a bit of an enigma at the plate thus far this season, likely a result of some uncorrected bad habits she picked up early in her career.

“She’s kind of got a baseball swing right now. She wants to drop her shoulder and come up instead of driving the bat down on the ball, so she’s under it all the time. If she nails it she’s great, but more often she’s under it. But we’ve got some batting drills she’s working on and she’ll get there.”

However, Golden’s infield has more than made up for her offensive struggles, Miano said.

“She’s playing great defense, so she’s contributing big time. Defensively she’s already outshined herself. We’re hoping her defense gives her confidence at the plate,” Miano said.

Senior Carli Brewer, junior Marissa Stephens, and junior Katherine Hurst scored Pulaski’s remaining runs.

Sophomore pitcher Callie Gregory faced 22 batters in just over five innings, scattering five hits, striking out one, walking one and allowing just four runs, three earned. Gregory’s off-speed pitches were in full effect resulting in more ground balls than in her previous start.

“Callie’s been working hard on standing up when she pitches. She leans too much so she’s working on that. But her screwball was working nicely,” Miano said.

Classmate Courtney Beville mopped up the final five outs after surrendering one earned run on two hits and a walk.

Tuesday’s lopsided victory also gave Miano a glimpse at a new-look infield with Wright at shortstop and Beville at first when Gregory is pitching. Wright will replace Brooke Hundley who will be sidelined the next several games for medical reasons.

Asked if Wright, a prototypical first base player, is ready to handle the lateral movement required at shortstop Miano said, “She’s going to have to be.”

Wright did have a throwing error to first, but is growing increasingly comfortable and is constantly learning.

“It’s going to work out fine. Sara can get the ball there (to first),” Miano said.

Elsewhere on defense, Chrisley picked off a runner trying to take a big lead at third base. Meanwhile, Hundley made a SportsCenter-style diving stop to snare a foul ball for an out in the seventh inning and Hurst made a spectacular snow cone catch in the webbing of her glove on a ball hit to shallow right.

“She ice cream-coned the ball and then had the presence of mind to whip the ball to third to double up the runner there. That’s huge! That’s three double plays in two games. That’s just unheard of,” Miano said.

The Cougars return home to play Floyd Friday at 5 p.m.

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