By Rob Kiser
The Piqua softball team was coming off a “magical” trip to Disney World in Orlando, Fla., before returning home Monday night.
The magic didn’t stop on Tuesday.
The Lady Indians rode the pitching of Kyla Blankenship, solid defense and two big innings at the plate for an 8-1 win over Greenville at the Piqua High School softball diamond.
The win moved Piqua to 10-1 overall and 5-0 in the GWOC North.
It dropped Greenville to 3-2 in the GWOC North and 9-3 overall, while Troy was 4-1 in the GWOC North headed into Tuesday’s game with Vandalia-Butler. And it was a win over a team ranked in the top 10 in the state in Division II.
“We are not going to get too excited about any one win until after the season,” Piqua coach Rick Claprood said. “Greenville is a great team. We have to be ready to play when we go over there tomorrow.”
Blankenship, who is now 8-1 on the season and entered the game with a .30 ERA and 61 strikeouts, did nothing to hurt that.
She pitched a three-hitter with six strikeouts, one hit batter and one walk — all this after three years as the starting third baseman.
“It was tough to do (making the move to pitcher) after three years at third base, but I had to do it for the team,” Blankenship said. “It is just great to be doing this my senior year. Every kid out here deserves to be here. It is just great to be doing this as a team.”
Twelve of the other 15 outs were pop-ups or fly outs and Piqua handled them flawlessly.
“Piqua is a solid team,” Greenville coach Jerrod Newland said. “They put the ball in play and we didn’t. Disappointment is obviously the word. Now, we have backed ourselves into a corner (in the GWOC North).”
Both teams had runners in scoring position in two of the first three innings, but did not score.
Alli Hill had a double in the first for Greenville, while Logan Tabler was hit by pitch in the third and stranded at second.
Megan Anderson had singled and stole second in the first for Piqua, while Rayna Brownlee started a perfect night at the plate in the third with a double.
“Rayna (Brownlee) is a girl who converted to left-handed when she was a freshman,” Claprood said. “This year she switched back to right hand. We asked her if she was seeing the ball better and she said yes.”
Greenville took the lead in the top of the fourth.
Cassie Cromwell and Ashton Kester had back-to-back doubles to make it 1-0.
It didn’t take long for Piqua to answer.
The Indians had a six-run, seven hit inning to take control, batting around.
“That was huge to answer,” Kyla Blankenship said.
“We had to answer — we had to,” he said.
Alyssa Jones and Reynna Lavey started things with singles.
Then, Kyla Blankenship looped a double down the right-field line to make it 1-1.
“Once we get started, there is no stopping us,” Kyla Blankenship said.
Kandra Forness and Mariah Blankenship had RBI singles and Morgan Ford’s bunt scored a run to make it 4-1.
Brownlee then delivered a big hit to make it 5-1.
“I felt confident up there,” Brownlee said. “I think the Florida hit helped us a lot with bonding and team chemistry. Everything we do, we do as a team.”
Alexis Gordon had a RBI single to make it 6-1.
In the fifth, Piqua added two more runs.
Lavey started things with a double, Forness was hit by a pitch and Mariah Blankenship singled to load the bases.
Ford had a fielder’s choice for a second RBI and Brownlee capped a 3-for-3 night with a RBI single.
But, as impressive as that was, was the play of Piqua’s defense all night.
“That is something we have worked a lot on,” Brownlee said.
Claprood again agreed.
“No, question (they are making plays this year they didn’t make in the past),” he said. “Megan Anderson might be the best centerfielder I have ever coached here.”
All the was more than enough for Kyla Blankenship on the mound — giving the team an opportunity to take control of the GWOC North tonight when it travels to Greenville.
“The pitching, it happened in the winter,” Blankenship said. “Working every day with Clap (Rick Claprood). He just stressed fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals. It was tough, but I had to do it for the team.”
And on Tuesday, the results continued to be “Magical”.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.