PLYMOUTH — Plymouth entered Monday’s Northern Lakes Conference opener hoping to parlay its first win of the season over the weekend into some early momentum. Instead it was the Chargers who jumped off to a fast start.
Miriah Brumley struggled with her command in the start inside the circle, reliever Brittney Horvath got off to a bit of a bumpy start of her own before settling in in the third, and Elkhart Memorial took advantage of six free bases and eight hits for 12 runs in the first two innings. The Lady Pilgrims responded with five runs of their own in the first two frames to give themselves new life, but the visitors ultimately finished off their hosts in six, 16-6 in Centennial Park.
“We’re frustrated to start off (NLC play) with a loss, but I’m encouraged to see us hitting the ball,” Plymouth softball coach Haley Church. “I just know we’re ready to get some more victories under our belt. We’re really hungry for them, and we’re working through a lot, but I try to stay optimistic that we’re going to get some more ‘W’s.”
The Chargers had a productive day at the plate with 12 hits in the NLC opener, including four in each of the first two innings. Of those 12 hits, half were for extra bases as Memorial racked up four triples — including two by number three hitter Paula Strausborger — and a pair of doubles to pile on the scores for the eventual runs-ahead rule victory.
“There were a few extra base hits there. We finally started hitting; we haven’t hit the ball all year like that, so that’s good that we came around and got some big hits,” said Memorial coach Craig Sears. “A lot of kids that haven’t been hitting started hitting today, so that was key for us.”
“We have a really busy week so I wanted to make sure Miriah got some experience. She hasn’t been able to throw for awhile, so I wanted her to get out there,” said Church. “Basically I wanted to give her some experience and I wanted to give her the shot. It didn’t go as well as we hoped.
“Our outfield was definitely moving. It’s hard because we have a bigger field, so if the ball gets in the outfield it takes off. That could be part of the extra bases, but yeah, they were hitting the ball.”
Memorial started fast in the top of the first as Kim Lucas drew a lead-off walk, Kara Summers moved her up with a sacrifice bunt, Paula Strausborger was hit by a pitch, and Lauren Strausborger singled in both Lucas and Paula. Kiersten Osowski was hit by another pitch, and Christy Hill and Gabby Warner tapped out consecutive RBI hits before Chargers pitcher Gretchen Hurtle drew the walk from Brumley to load the bases. Brittney Joy singled in Hill, and Lucas hit a SAC fly to left to score Warner before Hurtle was thrown out trying to take third on the play for the final out of the side.
Down 6-0, Plymouth put up a pair of runs in the bottom half of the first when Katie Berg drew a one-out walk, Kailey Whitley singled, and Berg scored when Summer McClellan put a ball in play to short that was misplayed on a fielder’s choice toss to third. Whitley scored on a routine grounder to short by Bailey Hatfield for the second out, and April Hampton grounded out to second to end the inning with the Pilgrims trailing 6-2.
The Chargers kept pouring on the pressure in the second as Summers led off with a double to right, and Paula Strausborger drove her in with a triple to deep right-center, the first of four three-baggers at the contest. Lauren Strausborger SAC flew out to right to score Paula, and after Osowski was walked and thrown out headed to second on a Hill fielder’s choice to short, Gabby Warner ripped another triple to deep left to score Hill. Hurtle singled in Warner and took second on a wild pitch.
Horvath chased Brumley with two on, but she gave up a trio of bases on balls in her first three batters faced, scoring Hurtle on a wild pitch, and walking in Joy before Lucas was called leading off of third to end the side with the hosts trailing by a distant 12-2 margin.
Again the Pilgrims responded, however.
Randi Dunn coaxed a lead-off walk from Hurtle, Bailey Brown was hit by a pitch, and Bre Martin slapped a single down the third baseline to load the bags with none out, bringing the top of the Plymouth order back around and setting the table for O’Neal, who lined a bases-clearing double into left center to give the home team new life at 12-5.
“Morgan, to come through with bases loaded and get such a big hit, that definitely gave us some life,” said Church. “That was encouraging. She’s been hitting the ball really well. She just got Athlete of the Week, and I guess she’s continuing that streak.”
Memorial tacked on another run in the third as Lauren Strausborger led off with a single, and stole second and third, scoring on a pick-off throw from the plate to third.
Plymouth kept the margin at seven runs in the fourth when O’Neal singled back to Hurtle and took second on a wild pitch and third on Whitley’s ground-out to second. McClellan drove her in with a liner through the gap at short, but both she and Hatfield were left stranded in scoring position when Hampton grounded to second to end the inning.
Paige Erwin took over for Hurtle inside the circle, shutting down the Pilgrims over the last two innings, and Memorial scratched out another three runs in the fifth and sixth off a pair of RBI triples from Hill and Paula Strausborger and a miscommunication for an error at second on a short pop-up by Lauren Strausborger to clinch the 10-run rule victory and the 1-0 league start.
“We want to win every conference game we can because it’s one of the tougher conferences with Concord, Northridge, several other teams that are in there,” said Sears. “You get off to a good start and take whatever wins you can because you never know what’s going to happen down the road. You get them and just keep building from there.”
Monday’s loss was a tough pill for the Pilgrims, who had started off the season with four straight five-inning losses before finally going the distance in a loss at Bremen last Tuesday and earning their first win of the season over Tippecanoe Valley Friday. Church is hoping her players can put the loss behind them in the midst of a busy stretch with four more games this week, beginning with another NLC contest at Concord Wednesday.
“We do have so many games, and it’s such a quick season that we have a short memory,” she said. “We just come in the next day ready to play.”
• ELKHART MEMORIAL 16, PLYMOUTH 6 (6 inn.)
Memorial: 661 012 — 16 12 2
Plymouth: 230 100 — 6 7 2
Miriah Brumley (L), Britney Horvath (2) and Bailey Hatfield; Gretchen Hurtle (W), Paige Erwin (5) and Nikki Ambrose, McKenzey Geers (4).
2B: Morgan O’Neal ℗, Kara Summers (EM), Christy Hill (EM)
3B: Paula Strausborger 2 (EM), Hill (EM), Gabby Warner (EM)
Records: Plymouth 1-5 (0-1 NLC), Memorial 2-6 (1-0 NLC)