By Rob Kiser
Sometimes, the first win is the hardest to get.
And after a long week — against some stiff competition — the Piqua softball team broke through in the second of two games Saturday against Worthington Kilbourne.
The Lady Indians, 1-4, bounced back from a 17-0 loss to Kenton Ridge earlier Saturday with their most complete game of the season in a 7-1 victory.
“The coaching staff felt all along if we made the plays on defense and hit the ball we were going to be fine,” Piqua coach Rick Claprood said. “It feels good to get that first win.”
And the Lady Indians showed that defense from the start, while Mariah Blankenship turned in a dominating performance on the mound.
Blankenship pitched a five-hitter, striking out two, walking one and hitting a batter — blanking Kilbourne in its final six at bats.
“I know Mariah (Blankenship) is young and still learning,” Claprood said about the sophomore. “But, if she can stay in the game, relax and make her pitches like she did (against Worthington Kilbourne), that is the thing that is going to help us the most.”
And the few times Blankenship needed plays from her defense, she got them.
It started in the first.
After Alex Friesen singled and Olivia Judy was hit by a pitch, Kilbourne had runners on second and third with no outs.
Molly Winget made it 1-0 with a sacrifice fly, with Judy holding at second.
Worthington pitcher Kasey Trout hit a line drive that appeared ticketed for a base hit to centerfield.
Not only did second baseman Lexi Gordon make a diving catch — she threw to shortstop Alyssa Jones to double Judy off second base and end the inning.
“Lexi (Gordon) and Lou (Alyssa Jones) are just exceptional,” Claprood said. “Nine times out of 10 you expect them to make a play — and they do. That was a great play by Lexi.”
The defense shined again in the seventh.
Kailyn Turner led off with a shot down the left field line that Kylie Trissell attempted to make a diving catch on.
While the ball went to the fence, Trissell chased it down and threw a strike to Jones, who relayed it to Sarah Marion to nail Turner going for a triple.
“We are always telling them that every play is their moment,” Claprood said. “OK, she came up a little short on trying to make the diving catch. But, she sprinted all the way to the fence and made a great throw to Lou (Alyssa Jones). What a play and I was just happy to see Kylie (Trissell) make a play like that.”
And Piqua hit some rockets at the plate.
Kendra Forness hit two doubles to the fence in her first two at bats, Jones had two doubles — the first smashed off the mask of Kilbourne first baseman Karly Scott and landing in foul territory in right field, Gordon added a double and Rayna Brownlee had two line-shot singles.
The single by Brownlee and doubles by Gordon and Jones provided three RBIs in the sixth to break open a 4-1 game.
“It was great to see Kendra (Forness) break out like that,” Claprood said. “She had a couple shots out there for doubles. Lexi (Gordon), Alyssa (Jones) and Rayna (Brownlee) all hit the ball hard.”
Piqua played small ball for the first four runs.
They scored two in the second.
After Forness doubled and was on third, she hustled home when the Kilbourne catcher overthrew the pitcher. Kami Trissell who had walked, would then come home on an illegal pitch.
In the third, Jones would score after doubling when the catcher again overthrew the pitcher.
Hannah Anderson, who walked, would come around to score on a wild pitch.
“I don’t care how we score, as long as we score,” Claprood said. “That is the main thing.”
Something that didn’t happen in the opening game.
Allie Popp and Lexi Gordon had infield singles, but those were the only two hits off Kenton Ridge.
“I don’t what happened the first game,” Claprood said. “I really don’t. I know we didn’t hit the ball at all.”
But, the finale more than made up for it for Piqua, who opens GWOC American play Monday at Vandalia-Butler.
“I can’t think of a better way to head into that game,” Claprood said. “We have nine girls out there who really play well together. Now we are headed to Vandalia on the win.”
And the toughest one is out of the way.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.