By Rob Kiser
Newton softball coach Mark Gibson couldn’t have asked for a much better start to the season.
Piqua and coach Rick Claprood will look to build on some positives from Monday’s 9-4 loss to the Indians to open the season.
For Newton, it made it three straight wins to start the season against GWOC teams — after sweeping a doubleheader with Xenia Saturday.
“To have only three girls returning at the same position,” Gibson said. “To have three wins over Division I schools is great. It is a great start. But, we still have a long way to go.”
Claprood probably feels that way after Monday’s game.
“You know, we played pretty good defense — we had a few mistakes — but for the most part it was good,” Claprood said. “The pitching wasn’t bad. Give Newton credit, they swung the bats. For some reason, we just couldn’t hit the ball tonight. It was frustrating.”
One thing that wasn’t was the magical glove of Alyssa Jones at shortstop. Like the previous three seasons, she continues to make the impossible look routine.
Twice, made diving catches between short and third as Gibson could just shake his head.
“That’s a girl that just lays her body out,” Claprood said. “What can you say. No question, those were incredible plays. And we have the same thing with Lexi (Gordon) at second base. We are probably as good as anyone defensively at short and second.”
Newton got off to a fast start.
After a single by Baily Chaney to start the game, Haley Pack sent a ball over the fence in centerfield to make it 2-0 in the top of the first.
“That was a nice home run by Haley (Pack),” Gibson said. “But, the best part of that was we were not satisfied.”
Newton added a single run in the third on doubles by Maddi Weaver and Kara Chaney, before Piqua got a run back in the fourth to make it 3-1.
Kendra Forness singled and Alyssa Jones reached on an error. Forness scored on a throwing error on Mariah Blankenship’s fielder’s choice.
Then, Newton added six runs in the fifth to make it 9-1.
“It is a good thing we did,” Gibson said. “The way Piqua can hit the ball, you can’t ever be satisfied.”
Kacie Tackett started things with a double.
Kristen Rappold helped her self with a single and when Kylee Fisher’s single got all the way to the fence, two runs scored.
After Erin Norman walked and Weaver reached on an error, Brooke Deeter and Kara Chaney had RBI singles and Baily Chaney had a two-run single.
“Sometimes, hitting is contagious,” Gibson said.
Claprood said that was a difference.
“You can’t give up a six-run inning like that,” he said. “That was tough. But, give Newton credit for hitting the ball.”
Piqua battled back with a run in the fifth and two in the sixth.
In the fifth, Rayna Brownlee and Sarah Marion both singled and pinch runner Kylie Trissell would score when Morgan Ford reached on an error.
At that point, Piqua had the bases loaded with no outs and the 2-3-4 hitters up, but would not score again in the inning.
“That was huge,” Claprood said. “We just couldn’t get the runners in. But, the kids kept battling all night.”
In the sixth, singles by Hannah Anderson, Allie Popp and Brownlee produced a run and Marion’s fielder’s choice scored a second run to make it 9-4.
In the seventh, Blankenship singled and Anderson — a freshman — delivered her third hit of the game, a double, to put runners on second and third.
“She (Hannah Anderson) comes in there as a freshman and she has been swinging the bat like that in the scrimmages — and is a good defensive first baseman. I would have love to have her up there and hit that double when we had the bases loaded.”
But, Rappold got a strikeout to end it.
She pitched an eight-hitter, striking out seven without a walk.
“The thing about it is she was in control the whole game,” Gibson said. “It didn’t matter if it was her fastball or her drop curve. She was in complete control out there.”
Deeter had three hits for Newton, while Tackett had a double and a single, Baily Chaney and Fisher had two hits each.
For Piqua, Anderson led the hitters, going 3-for-4, while Brownlee was 2-for-3.
Blankenship went the distance on the mound, striking out four and walking three.