Cats enjoying mid-season turnaround
Pitching, much-improved defense spark softball team’s four-game winning streak
Patience and perseverance appear to be paying off for the De Soto softball team.
After struggling through a six-game losing streak at the start the season, the Wildcats have now won four games in a row, getting back to 4-6 on the year. The winning streak started after the Wildcats dropped a doubleheader last Thursday to Santa Fe Trail 6-2 and 14-3.
"This is huge," De Soto softball coach Kelly Dennis said after sweeping Perry-Lecompton 6-1 and 8-0 Tuesday. "Winning is important. But sometimes, how you win or how you lose is just as important."
Dennis was referring to the six early season losses and the many errors that her Wildcats had committed during that time. Since then, however, her defense and pitching have improved dramatically.
"I cannot say enough about my pitchers," Dennis said of seniors Emily Baker and Allie Heinen. "They have to be able to throw well in order for us to have a chance. They are forcing ground balls and not walking as many people."
Baker was credited with three of the week's four wins, including earning both victories in Tuesday's sweep of Bonner Springs. She gave up just five earned runs in the three games she won.
Baker scattered five hits in nine innings of work against the Bobcats and threw an impressive 83 strikes in 120 pitches.
Heinen threw six innings against the Bobcats Monday and pitched a complete game Tuesday against Perry-Lecompton.
The senior was especially impressive in her win over the Kaws. She faced 27 batters and struck out nine. The Kaws went down in order against Heinen in the first, third, fourth and seventh innings.
Of the 85 pitches she threw against Perry-Lecompton, Heinen tossed 61 strikes.
The Wildcat bats have also come out of the bag in the four-game stretch. De Soto pounded out 28 hits collectively in the two wins over Bonner Springs and the nightcap victory over Perry-Lecompton.
De Soto scored 22 runs in the four games combined.
"The girls have done an excellent job of putting together hits," Dennis said. "The thing about hitting is that it's a day-to-day thing."
Dennis is cautiously optimistic about a strong finish to the season. But she does warn about a let up.
"We can't be satisfied," she said. "They have to want more. It's not what you did yesterday, but what you do today."
Bonner Springs jumped ahead of the Wildcats 3-0 Monday after two innings in the first game. But the Wildcats rallied to tie the game with three runs in the top of the third inning.
They then won the game in thefourth inning when Nicole Husted opened the inning with a single to center field. Husted scored the winning run when Leslie Klemansky grounded out to short.
The Bobcats jumped back on top early in the second game by scoring a run in the bottom of the second inning on back-to-back lead off walks and a one-out single.
De Soto scored a run in the top of the fifth inning when Trisha King reached base with a one-out single. She scored later in the inning.
The Wildcats went ahead 4-3 in the top of the ninth inning when they scored three runs.
Jen Davis led off the inning with a single to left field. Lauren Hampton sacrificed Davis to second, and Carrie Buser walked to put runners at the corners.
Husted rifled a single to left field, scoring Davis. Trisha King then pounded out a two RBI single to right field, scoring Buser and Husted.
The Bobcats put their first two runners on base to open the bottom half of the ninth. Heinen struck out the next batter and got a fly out and a ground out, ending the threat. The Wildcats took a 3-0 lead over Perry-Lecompton after four innings in Tuesday's opener. De Soto added three more runs in the bottom half of the fifth inning.
Heinen got things started when she singled up the middle with one out in the inning. A walk by Jen Davis and Lauren Hampton's sacrifice bunt put runners at second and third with two outs in the inning.
Buser reached the base pads safely on a Kaw error, and Heinen scored from third base following an error by the Kaws. Davis and Buser made the score 6-0 when they scored following King's up-the-middle single.
Perry-Lecompton avoided the shut-out when Molly Pruitt rolled a lead off single down the first-base line. She scored on a Samantha Hackathorn's single.
Heinen led the way for De Soto's 8-0 win over the Kaws in the nightcap by going 2-for-3 from behind the plate. She also walked, scored a pair of runs, and knocked in three runs.
Jenny Hill also had multiple hits by going 2-for-4 with a single and a double, scoring two runs and knocking one in. Leslie Klemansky was 2-for-3 and scored two runs.
Baker, Davis, Hampton, Husted and King all pounded out a hit a piece.
Kristin Weatherford ripped a pair of singles in the second game to collect two of the Kaw's (2-6) four hits in the game.
In addition to her efforts from the mound and behind the plate, Baker also made some crucial plays on defense.
The senior made a heads-up play when she fielded a grounder from Whitney Vasquez and threw Bonnie Pruitt out at third for the first out of the sixth inning.
She was also responsible for the final out in the inning when she latched onto a sharp line drive off the bat of Kaw junior Jayme Cooper.
The winning streak started after the Wildcats dropped a doubleheader last Thursday to Santa Fe Trail, 6-2 and 14-3.
De Soto, 4-6, is back in action Thursday with a doubleheader at Lansing. Play starts at 4:30 p.m. The team is then host to Basehor-Linwood for a twin bill that begins at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.