Moral victories don’t really exist in sports. But Wednesday’s Pulaski County-Carroll County varsity softball game is about as close as they come.
“This was the best ball game I’ve seen in a while,” said Pulaski coach Gina Miano.
On the scoreboard the Cougars wound up losing a tough one 4-1 on the road. And the loss brings to a halt a two-game double-digit win streak at least for the time being. But don’t expect Miano and her charges to be brooding over this one for more than say, a minute or two.
“It would have been very easy to lie down and say that we’re going to [stink], but we didn’t,” Miano said.
So what’s all the hubbub? Well, consider this. The last time these two squads squared off the Cavaliers – wait for it – rode away with a rather decisive victory here in Pualski, 11-2 to be exact. It’s tough to be taken seriously the second time when a team rolls up that many runs.
Also consider that the Cougars have begun a stretch of games, nobody knows how many really, without their emotional leader in Brooke Hundley, the one everybody knows as “LB.” Hundley is on the shelf for the foreseeable future as she tends to a personal medical situation.
And Wednesday her absence was palpable. You could feel it, Miano said.
“Normally she’d be the one leading cheers on the bus,” she said. “I spoke to a couple of others privately and asked them to step up a bit and try to fill her shoes with the cheers.”
The team did their level best to stay pumped, off and on the field.
Sara Wright moved from first, where’s she’s played pretty much her entire career, to shortstop where even the smallest mistakes go under the microscope in a lot of places, most of the time in the player’s own head.
Wright fielded five balls in Wednesday’s game. She made perfect throws on four. The fifth went for an error, the only one of the game for Pulaksi. But it didn’t cost them any runs and Wright has no doubt long since forgotten about the play by now.
“That’s the way Sara is,” Miano said. “She doesn’t dwell on mistakes. She just lets them go and it’s on to the next play.”
And consider that this game was scoreless until the fifth inning. That’s right. Zero runs. In softball that’s unheard of. Even rec league games don’t go scoreless for more than an two or three innings.
As for hits? Oh, there were plenty of those. This wasn’t a pitcher’s duel like in the majors. Both sides cranked out 22 hits combined, 12 by Carroll County.
The difference in this one, plain simple, was that the Cavaliers drove in their runners in scoring position on three singles and a double, thanks mainly to centerfielder Tiffanie Moore who went 2-for-3.
The Cougars, on the other hand, stranded their runners including two bases-loaded situations in the seventh inning with nobody out. They’d already spoiled the shutout to open the inning as Chelsea Golden, Callie Gregory, and Carli Brewer each singled to load the bases the first time.
Courtney Beville singled home Golden to put the Cougars on the board. But then a Marissa Stephens groundball to shortstop – ironically enough – turned into a double play that cut down another run at the plate and Pulaski’s scoring threat died on the proverbial vine.
Gregory went the distance, scattering a dozen hits and allowing four runs, three of which were earned. She also struck out one, but did not give any walks.
Overall, Miano couldn’t have been more pleased with her team’s performance under rather extenuating circumstances.
“We’re out of position. This is our first game without LB. No practice. No time to teach somebody how to play first and our regular first baseman over at shortstop. And they performed beyond excellent,” Miano said. “The theme of our year is to persevere and we’re doing that.”
The Cougars begin River Ridge District action Tuesday, April 16, at home against Christiansburg.