By Rob Kiser
Piqua softball coach Rick Claprood has talked about his senior leadership all season.
So, it is not surprising after a 3-0 win over Troy Monday on Senior Night gave Piqua at least a share of the GWOC North title heading into Tuesday’s game at Troy — that leadership would shine again.
“We are not done yet,” senior centerfielder Megan Anderson said after the Lady Indians improved to 17-4 overall and 8-1 in the GWOC North. “We have one more to go.”
Anderson was referring to Tuesday’s game at Troy when Piqua can win its first outright conference title in softball in a number of years.
“I can’t give these three seniors enough credit,” Claprood said. “There are times Megan (Anderson) has had to carry us. There are times Kyla (Blankenship) has had to carry us and times Reynna (Lavey) has had to carry us. We have had great senior leadership.”
The three seniors were instrumental Monday.
Piqua pitcher Kyla Blankenship got all the runs she would need in the first.
Anderson reached on an error and with two outs, Lavey drilled a double down the left field line to make it 1-0.
“She had thrown me two outside pitches in a row,” Lavey said. “She came inside and that is what I was looking for. I just wanted to put a ball in play.”
In the third, Lavey swung an even bigger bat.
“She is really swinging the bat well now,” Claprood said. “Really, 1through 9, everyone can swing the bat.”
Alyssa Jones had singled with two outs and Lavey drilled the ball over the leftfield fence to make it 3-0.
“It felt really good coming off the bat,” Lavey said.
Troy’s best chance to score came in the fourth inning.
Josie Rohlfs doubled and Lauryn Rutan singled to put runners on second and third with no outs.
With one out, Piqua shortstop Alyssa Jones turned in the web gem of the game, making a diving catch of Troy pitcher Natalie Henson’s looper.
“My defense is always hustling behind me,” Kyla Blankenship said.
She followed with her second strikeout of the inning with the bases loaded to end the rally, which followed a pattern. In all four innings where Troy had runners in scoring positions, Blankenship ended the inning with strikeouts.
“That was huge,” Claprood said. “They had the bases loaded at one point. I know what it does to us when we don’t score in that situation, so I know it has the same affect on them.”
Blankenship threw a four-hitter, striking out seven walking two.
“It is amazing,” Claprood said about the timely strikeouts. “I think she just re-focuses in those situations. And Reynna (Lavey) is doing a great job calling pitches.”
Blankenship said there is nothing magical about it.
“I just make pitches,” she said. “I focus on Reynna’s (Lavey) mitt. I know the defense is always hustling and making plays behind me.”
“Kyla (Blankenship) just focuses on my mitt,” she said. “Give her (Alyssa Jones) props for that play at shortstop.”
Piqua had a chance to add to the lead in the fifth after a double by Kendra Forness and single by Rayna Brownlee, but catcher Kearston Riley threw a runner out stealing to end the inning.
In the first, Rutan had singled for Troy and was on third with two out when Blankenship got a strikeout.
Lainee Poling walked and stole second in the fifth, but Blankenship retired the next three hitters.
In the seventh, Riley walked and Brooke Beeler singled to put runners on first and second with no outs.
Blankenship followed with two strikeouts, before getting a ground out to Mariah Blankenship at third.
“That was a big play (by Mariah Blankenship),” Claprood said. “Anything can happen if we don’t get the out.”
Piqua was coming off a 13-4 win over Middletown Madison Saturday.
Kelsie Hall was 2-for-4 with a solo homer, while Alexis Gordon was 5-for-5 with a double and a RBI.
Anderson and Forness were both 2-for-4 with one RBI and Forness had a double.
Lavey drove in two runs, while Jones had a double and a RBI.
Kyla Blankenship was 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs at the plate and threw a six-hitter, striking out seven and walking four.
Now comes a big game at 12-8 Troy today to decide the GWOC North title. Troy and Greenville are both 7-2 in the conference.
“They (Troy) are going to be fired up — we know that,” Claprood said. “Just like Greenville was after we beat them the first time. But, we are different team now. We will be ready to play.”
He knows his seniors will make sure of that.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.