Between Monday and Tuesday afternoon, the Eastern softball team might very well have realized the power of practice, according to head coach Kim Schuette.
Assistant coaches Al Schuette and Rachel Houck worked with the outfield yesterday on their ability to track down balls that reach the outskirts of the field.
“The outfielders probably got tired and probably were not happy at some point, but we made three catches, two by Davis and one by Jones going deep on balls and we made them look easy,” Schuette said.
It apparently paid off, as in the most recent victory, a 7-1 win over IUPUI in a game decided as early as the bottom of the first, Eastern gave up just one error.
One of the Panthers most reliable bats, junior Mia Davis, not only produced on a double in top of the first to score Tayler Wullenweber for the first lead of the game but also bolted to the centerfield fence for two tough grabs.
Eastern head coach Schuette wants the team to be known by hustle and toughness, qualities she observed when her fielders assisted the Eastern bullpen in maintaining six scoreless Jaguar innings.
She saw it when Morgan LaMore dove for a foul ball along the first base line, in the string of catches Mia Davis tracked down along the fence in centerfield and Mady Poulter’s grabs at second base, right field and, heck, even centerfield.
“If I am not mistaken, I don’t think we had really one ball, like one fly ball drop,” Davis said. “So I think that, mentally, everybody was here today and everybody was really like in the zone or in the game.”
Before the game began, the coaching staff ascertained that, with four games remaining on the schedule, they wanted to switch up the lineup in a non-conference matchup, allotting playing time to players who have not stepped foot in the batter’s box very often this season.
Freshmen Shelby Martell, Denead Santini and junior Lexi Smith, who Schuette inserted into the lineup to pinch-hit, all went 1 for 1 at the plate.
The slew of runs scored in the first inning assured the largest victory at Williams Field this season, not to mention Eastern’s sixth consecutive win against the Jaguars.
“You can be a little bit more aggressive, you do not have to be so tight, usually the dugout loosens up a little bit, hopefully, the pitcher, when you score some, they come out and shut them down,” Schuette said.
After Davis whacked the line drive to centerfield, junior Haley Mitchell, looking at a 1-0 count, hit a towering home run over the leftfield fence off lefthander Dezirae Leonard, which put Eastern up 3-0.
Mady Poulter’s line drive bounced off the tip of shortstop Emily Berrisford’s glove and into the outfield, scoring Kendyl McKeough for a 4-0 Eastern lead.
Megan Burton doubled to right centerfield in the bottom of the second, reaching second on Wullenweber’s fly out to leftfield before stealing third and then home.
An infield single from freshman Shelby Martell, coupled with a Smith single to leftfield to load the bases, amped up enough pressure on IUPUI pitcher Jaida Speth to tack on two more runs in the fifth.
“If you’re defense can remain steady, no matter who is out there, then your offense can relax and produce hopefully,” said.
Tom O’Connor can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]