First innings doom Pilgrims, Eagles

LAKEVILLE — Slow starts led to quick exits for Plymouth and Culver Girls Academy in first-round softball sectional play Tuesday.
The Pilgrims yielded eight runs in the opening frame en route to a 10-0 five-inning loss to host Saint Joseph in a Class 3A Sectional 19 first-round contest at Newton Park.
Meanwhile, the Eagles surrendered a nine spot in the first inning and lost in five to Jimtown in the nightcap, 13-0.
The Indians put Plymouth away early sending 13 batters to the dish in the bottom of the first and plating eight runs on four hits and five costly bases on balls. Plymouth’s pitchers also uncorked six wild pitches in the initial frame, three leading to St. Joe runs.
With St. Joe leading 2-0, designated player Jordan Walczewski clubbed a two-out RBI double off Plymouth starter Britney Horvath to start a string of seven straight batters reaching base safely.
Freshman pitcher Haley Brown entered in the middle of the first-inning mess and pitched creditably giving up three earned runs over 3 2/3 innings.
“It’s hard when you get in a deep hole early; it takes the wind out of your sails,” Plymouth head coach Haley Church said. “We always want to put our best foot forward, and we tried to battle.
“I was kind of worried coming in because we’ve played a lot of freshmen this year,” she added. “They seemed to do all right. It was good to see them fight all the way to the end.”
St. Joe leadoff hitter Kelly Welsh walked and eventually scored the game’s first run on a wild pitch, and added a two-run single in the first before scoring a second run on another wild pitch. Welsh’s RBI groundout in the bottom of the fifth ended the game.
In the circle, St. Joe sophomore starter Anna Irons twirled a one-hit masterpiece. She struck out the first five Plymouth batters swinging and allowed just three runners — an infield hit to designated player April Hampton and walks to senior shortstop Morgan O’Neal and Sommer McClellan.
“We’ve been struggling to hit the ball all year,” Church said. “I’m proud of my defense. They responded and improved throughout the year.”
Plymouth nearly broke through in the top of the fifth. With two out and runners on first and second, first baseman Katie Berg hit a blooper that Irons, catcher Madison Drajer and first baseman Sierra McDonald converged upon along the first-base chalk. The ball dropped fair before skipping into foul ground, but two runs appeared to score after an umpire ruled that the ball hit McDonald in fair territory. Following a conference between umpires, the ball was ruled foul, and Berg ultimately popped out for the final out.
“We had that weird play that made us lose our runs,” Church said. “We know in our hearts we scored those runs.”
Plymouth now bids farewell to seniors O’Neal, Hampton, Horvath, and Kailey Whitley.
“I’m sad to see our seniors go,” Church said. “They’re a great group. It’s hard with a whole new coaching staff, but they were accepting and willing to learn, even as seniors. It’s a special group that will be missed, missed because of their experience and their ability to come through for their teammates. I wish them all the best.”
At Lakeville
Plymouth: 0 0 0 0 0 —  0 1 1
St. Joe: 8 0 0 0 2 — 10 9 0
Britney Horvath (L), Haley Brown (1) and Bailey Hatfield; Anna Irons (W) and Madison Drajer
2B: Jordan Walczewski (SJ).
Records: Plymouth 6-22 (final), St. Joe 21-8
With a retooled defensive lineup and a variety of infield and outfield shifts, the Eagles struggled through a marathon first inning.
Fifteen Jimmies strode to the dish in the first frame against soft-tossing sophomore starter Karissa Krou — including a string of nine straight reaching safely — racking up nine runs on four hits, four walks, and a pair of Eagles errors.
“We tried to put the best defense we had available on the field,” CGA head coach Randy Minas said. “We have two starting pitchers, but over the last week one hurt her back and the other hurt her arm, so we put them in the infield. We wanted someone who would just put the ball in play and we’d make the plays. We just didn’t field as well as we’re capable.
“We made a bunch of changes in the second inning,” he added. “We only gave up four runs after that. It was just too much to make up.”
Jimtown starting pitcher Jordyn Green smacked a pair of RBI triples, scored twice and combined with sophomore Caitlyn Withrow on a two-hit shutout. Left fielder Bailey Clark and first baseman Reilley Storm added two hits and an RBI apiece for the Jimmies.
Abigail VanHorn doubled for the Eagles. Jamie Madison added a pinch-hit single in the fifth for CGA.
The Eagles graduate seven seniors — Abigail Jeffirs, Samantha Seibel, VanHorn, Patience Durbin, Kortney Smith, Rita Zambon, and Danielle Krou.
“We have seven seniors, so next year is going to be a rebuilding year,” Minas said. “I think the world of (the seniors). We’ve asked them to do and put them in positions they’ve never played. Two years ago we had no varsity pitchers in this group. By the end of this season we have five pitchers who are seniors.
“We had nine rainouts, and because we’re not in a conference, those games don’t get rescheduled,” he added. “That’s not an excuse; I just wish we had a chance to play more games. I wish we had these seniors another year, because they’d be writing more good things about us. I’m proud of them.”
CGA: 0 0 0 0 0 —  0 2 3
Jimtown: 9 1 2 1 X — 13 11 1
Karissa Krou (L), Abigail Jeffirs (2) and Danielle Krou, Samantha Seibel (2); Jordyn Green, Caitlyn Withrow (3, W) and Karigan Housman.
2B: Abigail VanHorn (CGA), Ally Lyle (J), Caitlyn Wenger (J), Bailey Clark (J).
3B: Jordyn Green 2 (J).
Record: CGA 2-12 (final).