During Pulaski’s first run through the River Ridge District softball schedule – on the road versus Cave Spring and Hidden Valley especially – Coach Gina Miano was most frustrated that those foes hadn’t really experienced the full extent of her team’s talent in those early contests.
“They don’t know how good we are,” Miano said after her team fell to both teams 11-1 and 10-4 respectively the first time around.
Well, rest assured, Coach, they know now.
On Monday the Titans found out firsthand how good this Pulaski nine is – or can be when they put their gloves and bats into it. They also found out that it’s tough to beat a team twice in one season, unless of course you’re the Salem Spartans.
Then again, Cave Spring changed that in a hurry by handing the Spartans their first RRD loss of the year.
In a rescheduled game from a washout last Friday the Cougars pounded Hidden Valley virtually right off the bus with all the runs they’d need – 10 in all – in the first inning on the way to a 13-3 mercy-rule shortened win.
Labeling this one “much-needed” would probably win the top prize for understatement.
“Yeah, that’d be the understatement of the year,” Miano said. “Every win is big, but this one was big because we came out (swinging and scoring) in the first inning. That’s a change for us and that’s what we needed, whether it was one run or 20, it didn’t matter.”
And the timing didn’t hurt either. With just three RRD games left the Cougars entered Monday’s showdown looking to ride that all-important Big Mo wave into the district tournament.
Surf was up Monday from the get-go as an offensive tsunami pounded Hidden Valley with a vengeance.
Leadoff hitter Jordan Chrisley started the ripple effect with an infield single that was probably more fielding error than hit, but the senior beat throw from shortstop. Sara Wright sent her to second with a single through the middle. Kelli Duncan followed with a nifty bunt up the firstbase line to load the bases.
Lauren Shumate drove in the first two runs with a single over the bag at second. Brooke Hundley plated two more with a single to right. She took second when rightfielder bobbled the ball.
With one out, starting pitcher Courtney Beville, who’d retired the side almost in order on three infield grounders to open the game, helped herself to a double off the fence in straightaway centerfield that scored Hundley for a 5-0 lead and the rout was on.
Beville, a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate, scored on the first of two straight Hidden Valley errors which put two on for Chrisley with just one out. The one everyone calls Baby J then cleared the bases with a monster home run to dead center.
“That was huge for her confidence,” Miano said, adding that she actually predicted Chrisley’s shot. “During the timeout we called I said (to Chelsea Golden and Chrisley), ‘You (Golden) are going to get on and you (Chrisley) are going to knock it out.’ In the dugout afterwards they were wondering if I was psychic.”
The Cougars final run of the inning came when Shumate, on her second time up in the frame, lined a double down the left field line to drive home Wright who’d reached on yet another Titan fielding error, one of five in the frame.
“The way things have gone for us lately I’ll take runs any way we can get them,” Miano said. “We’ve been on the other end of that, so we’ll take it.”
Hidden Valley spoiled the shutout in the third as they loaded the bases on three hits and a walk. At first it appeared the Cougars might get out of it with two nifty force plays at the plate, the first of which had Miano burying her head with worry.
“It was (hit) deep (to shortstop) and we teach them when in doubt get an out. LB made a great throw, but yeah I could hardly watch,” Miano said.
Beville forced the next batter out at the plate as well, a play Miano said she is plenty comfortable with. “We practice that play quite a bit and they did a nice job,” Miano said.
Beville walked just two batters, which was also just what the doctor ordered in this one.
“She pitched a great game. Every win boosts everyone’s confidence. It helps that she didn’t have to go seven innings. But I’ve got to mention her batting as well. Her eye and seeing the ball lately has just been incredible to me. She’s consistently been a great batter for us,” Miano said.
Pulaski answered with two runs in the fourth to maintain a double-digit lead. Chrisley walked to open the inning. She stole second and came in when Wright lined her second single of the game to right. Wright made it 12-2 on Hundley’s two-out RBI single to left.
The Titans scored their final run of the game in the fourth on a sacrifice fly. Two batters later they load the bases with a pair of seeing-eye singles. But then Beville struck out Hidden Valley’s cleanup hitter Sophia Robinette to douse the threat and a thrilled Miano popped out of the dugout to congratulate the team as they sprinted in.
“That was big, very big, with the bases loaded and their big stick at the plate. Huge!” Miano said.
The Cougars sealed the game in the fifth when Hundley poked her third hit of the game to left to score Duncan from second.
After the game, Miano also praised those who’ve helped her in the dugout all year, including Shannon Brewer and Michelle and Vernon Crouch who help the team immeasurably, both on and off the field.
“All three of them work at AEP, which sponsors half our scoreboard. I’d like to give kudos to them because they donate 99 percent of their time. The more things you see getting better the more you look at the people responsible for those things and they’re a big impact on the community. AEP has supported us so much and they let these folks come (to help us).”