BREMEN — It wasn’t a win, but you could call Tuesday’s softball game at Bremen a moral victory for Plymouth.
After opening the season with three straight shutouts, the Lady Pilgrims were finally able to get on the scoreboard Tuesday. Plymouth scratched out three runs in the fifth and sixth innings to cut its deficit in half after a fast start by the host Lady Lions, but back-to-back triples during a four-run sixth proved to be the backbreaker as the Lions downed the visitors, 10-3.
“I definitely feel a moral victory because we’ve been seeing that goose egg on there,” said first-year Plymouth softball coach Haley Church. “It’s nice to get some runs on the board and finally just get that hump off our back. We’re growing a lot. It’s hard because the scoreboard doesn’t show how much we’re growing, but from the first game to now we’re a totally different team.”
Plymouth batters collected 10 hits compared to 11 by the Lions, but a big four-run sixth featuring back-to-back triples from Bremen’s Emily Molden and Brooke Baker finally put the game out of reach.
Maci Moren led off the frame with a line single into left and took second on a wild pitch, and Sabrina Gilley scored her with a hard grounder back through Plymouth pitcher Britney Horvath’s legs as the top of the order came back around. Megan Stouder drew a walk, and both she and Gilley stole a base to get into scoring position, but it never really mattered as Molden tripled to deep right to drive both home. Not to be outdone, Baker cranked an 0-1 offering all the way to the center field fence for a triple of her own, scoring Molden to push the score to its final margin.
“That took the pressure off because it was 6-3 at that time,” said Bremen coach Mike Huppert. “I told the girls we needed to come back and get a couple runs right back. Chelsea led off with a hit and then another hit and a walk and back-to-back triples. That’ll light up a scoreboard quick.
“I’ve been telling the girls we’ve just got to swing the bat harder. We need to hit hard at somebody and make somebody make a play, and that finally happened in that fifth and sixth inning.”
All total, the Lions finished with four extra-base hits as Molden and Baker each recorded doubles at Tuesday’s game in addition to their three-base blasts. Bremen got the majority of its production from its top four as Gilley and Stouder both went 2-for-3 with two runs apiece, and Molden and Baker finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs each. Bremen’s speedy lineup also finished the game with nine stolen bases — including four by Stouder alone — as the Lions kept the pressure on the Pilgrims en route to a 2-0 start to the season.
“That’s real nice production at the top,” said Huppert. “They scored six out of those 10 runs in the top four. Megan also had four stolen bases. Gilley had two stolen bases there at the top, so we’re getting them in scoring position, and that’s how they’re getting the RBIs, too. Timely hitting, that’s the name of the game. Get them on, get them over, get them in — that’s our motto.”
Trailing 5-0 going into the fifth, Plymouth’s Katie Berg started the Pilgrims off with a big one-out double to right-center, and Kailey Whitley moved her to third with a looping single into shallow center. Whitley stole second, and freshman Bailey Hatfield’s two-out flare just inside fair territory in shallow right scored both to give the visitors their first runs of the year.
Bremen tacked on another run in the bottom of the frame to push the lead back out to 6-2, however.
Taylor Lashbrook reached on an infield error, Mikayla Gardner followed up with a slap bunt single, and Rachael Czarnecki laid down a sacrifice bunt to move both into scoring position. Lashbrook scored on a wild pitch before Horvath struck Bremen eight hitter Brooke Fitch looking to end the inning.
But Plymouth came right back with another run in the top of the sixth.
Designated hitter Miriah Brumley legged out a double on a two-strike flare into shallow center, and nine hole hitter Bre Martin moved her over with a sacrifice bunt down the third baseline. Morgan O’Neal took a 2-2 offering from Bremen reliever Chelsea Huppert into center to score Brumley and bring the score to 6-3, but it wasn’t enough for the win.
Still, it was a big step in the right direction for the Pilgrims, who have been shut out in three straight five-inning losses at the start of the season.
Plymouth committed just one error Tuesday, and Horvath struck out four while giving up four walks with 11 hits surrendered. Whitley went 2-for-4 with a run and a stolen base at the plate for the Pilgrims, and April Hampton also finished 2-for-4 with a double on the road at Bremen.
“April Hampton needs a shout-out because she has gotten on base every single game so far this season. She’s the one girl who’s just hitting the ball. I bet she has our best batting average right now. She’s just having a great start to her senior year, and she seems to be loving it,” said Church.
“I just moved Kailey down. We talk a lot and I just challenge her to be a leader on this team. She asked to move, and she hit the ball so I guess it’s a good compromise. Yeah, she’s been great.”
The Pilgrims slip to an 0-4 start but should take some momentum with them as they travel to Glenn Thursday, Tippecanoe Valley Friday and Michigan City Saturday. Plymouth opens Northern Lakes Conference play at Elkhart Memorial next Monday, and the team won’t open at home until its game with Triton next Thursday.
“We play Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and they’re all away. We’ve started off all away games. I think that might be another thing — it’ll be great when we get to our own field. We’re home next week so it’s like we’re trying to get to that stretch. But hopefully we can get some victories here,” said Church.
“We start off with some really hard teams. We’ve got a lot of freshmen who are learning and they’re trying to grow up as quick as they can. I’m confident that we’ll come around. We’ve just got to get that ‘W’ under our belt.”
Bremen is off to a strong 2-0 start, meanwhile, with a tough road contest at Mishawaka tonight, followed by a home game with NorthWood Thursday and a weekend layover. The Lions start out Northern State Conference play at John Glenn next Monday.
“The last couple years we’ve started off like 0-5 or whatever, and it’s demoralizing off the bat. This year we worked hard in the offseason in our open gyms,” Huppert said. “The short hops and the long throws and just everything that we’ve worked on. We didn’t get that before spring break, it was kind of a letdown that we couldn’t show it, but we did show no errors up at Washington and no errors again tonight. The girls are listening to us, I think, as far as the defensive positions we’re trying to get them in. Pitching’s great — five more strikeouts tonight; that takes a lot of pressure off. We feel that this is a very good team, and we just want to get better and better every game.”
• BREMEN 10, PLYMOUTH 3
Plymouth: 000 021 0 — 3 10 1
Bremen: 400 114 0 — 10 11 0
Lexi Pate (W, 1-0), Chelsea Huppert (5) and Brooke Baker; Britney Horvath (L, 0-3) and Bailey Hatfield
2B: Baker (B), Emily Molden (B), Katie Berg (P), April Hampton (P)
3B: Baker (B), Molden (B)
Records: Bremen 2-0, Plymouth 0-4