If it’s not one thing, it’s two. Or three. Or four.
First, the Pulaski County Lady Cougars softball team was forced to deal with the loss – at least until maybe the district tournament – of their infield and clubhouse anchor, senior shortstop Brooke Hundley. That caused enough of a rift in the proverbial force and resulted in some players moving to new positions.
Then, before Tuesday’s game at Hidden Valley Lauren Shumate, who plays third, missed a game for the first time in a while with an illness herself. Another player missed the game because of a funeral and another was out tending to another family medical emergency. That resulted in more shifting, more players their best fish-out-of-water impressions.
And when the proverbial dust from the position changes had settled the Cougars emerged from Tuesday’s contest on the short end of a 10-4 game, their second consecutive loss. The Cougars are 1-2 in the RRD and 4-5 overall.
Feeling snakebit at all, Coach Gina Miano?
“A little bit,” Miano admitted, only partially joking. “Not making excuses, but our whole infield was out of position.”
The Titans struck first, posting two runs in the second inning and holding the Cougars scoreless until the fourth. Carli Brewer, who is quietly carrying a rather sizeable stick lately, smacked a two-out single, stole second base and scored on Chelsea Golden’s single.
Pulaski added another run in the sixth. Brewer singled again, stole another base, and went to third on a wild pitch. She scored on another Golden hit, this time on the infield.
In the seventh, Sarah Wright started what appeared to be a comeback rally with a solo home run over the centerfield fence. Wright now has four home runs.
“She killed it,” Miano said of Wright’s homer. “That was big because she was 0-for-2 with a walk to that point. Now we just have to get runners on in front of her.”
Kelli Duncan, who was hit by a ball directly on her scarred kneecap during warm-ups and in the back her first trip to the plate, followed with a single.
“If it weren’t for bad luck, we’d have none,” Miano said of Duncan’s incident. “You could see the stitches of the ball on that tender scar tissue. We weren’t sure if she was going to get to play. She took a beating.”
Undaunted, and perhaps even motivated by her pain, Duncan stole second base, took second on a Courtney Beville groundout and scored on a passed ball.
“That’s just what Kelli does,” Miano said. “She’s like The Terminator. She keeps coming at you.”
Unfortunately for Cougar nation, the scoring damage on the field had already been done. In the fifth inning the Titans posted four runs without a hit. Hidden Valley scored four more in the sixth as well.
“It might be mental let-down, but I’m seeing a little bit of a pattern here, which I probably need to adjust soon,” Miano said.
The good news is that most of the other teams in the River Ridge have had a rough go early on as well. After at least three district games only Salem remains undefeated in RRD action at 3-0.
Cave Spring, 11-1 winners over Pulaski Monday in a game Miano and company would just as soon forget, is currently in second place at 2-1. Meanwhile, Blacksburg — the Cougars’ next opponent Friday at home – is 2-2. Hidden Valley (1-2) and Christiansburg (1-3) round out the standings as of Wednesday morning.
Callie Gregory pitched just over five innings and faced 30 batters. Gregory scattered eight hits, struck out two, walked one, and allowed 10 hits, only four of which were earned.
“Callie pitched well enough to win the game. We just had too many errors again,” Miano said. The Cougars had seven errors overall, including five in the fifth inning.
Brewer led the Cougars with two hits in three trips. She scored two runs and stole two bases. Wright, Beville, Golden and Marissa Stephens each contributed one hit.