Westhill softball outslugs Staples
Westhill High's softball team has been involved in plenty of offensive slugfests so far this season -- and come out on top in most of them.
The Vikings prevailed again in such a contest Wednesday, but it was their defense that preserved the victory in this high-scoring affair.
Tammy Wise belted a two-run, inside-the-park home run as Westhill ended a late Staples rally with a game-ending double play to seal a 9-7 win at Rioux Field
Now 13-3 overall (12-2 FCIAC), the Vikings have won nine of their last 10.
"I liked the way we hit the ball," Vikings coach Tom Pia said. "I didn't like the way we came out flat in the first inning. We didn't really deflate in the last inning. (Staples) just hit the heck out of the ball in the last inning."
Trailing 9-4 entering the top of the seventh inning, the Wreckers (9-7, 7-7) went to work and nearly came all the way back. Run-scoring hits by Emily Lustbader (single), Shannon Connors (triple) and Maggie Mills (double) with one out had the Vikings reeling, but starting pitcher Sadie Apfel got pinch-hitter Caitlyn Rand to ground to short. Ever alert, first baseman Meg D'Alessandro fired to third after the putout at first to get pinch runner Amy Miers trying to advance.
"That's our type of team this year," Staples coach Sara Holland said of her team's aggressiveness. "It's the one thing I don't have to worry about with them. We're always trying to win the game, we don't just sit down and give up."
Westhill spotted the Wreckers three runs in the top of the first inning thanks to a pair of costly errors. The first came on a routine grounder to first that kept a rally alive and eventually loaded the bases. Staples' Katherine Friend then hit a single to the right field that cleared the bases following a fielding error in the outfield.
"We definitely picked up (the defense) after the first inning," Pia said. "We had a couple of big plays; that first to third play. What a way to end a game."
The Vikings played flawless in the field from there, forcing 14 groundouts in the final six innings without committing an error, including another first-to-third double play in the fourth.
The bats eventually woke up for the Vikings, who scored eight runs between the third and fifth innings. Westhill drew four walks in a three-run third inning that included just one hit and a Staples error. Wise broke the game open in the bottom of the fifth with her homer that made the score 9-4.
"I think (Westhill) ended up scoring five runs off of two or three errors in the outfield," Holland said. "So either two runs scored on the error and the girl getting on base because of the error scored. That's the stuff we have to be a better job at."
A bright spot for the Wreckers was the freshman Lustbader, who went 3-for-4 with three runs scored. Maggie Mills also went 3-for-4 for Staples.
"She's just been solid all season," Holland said of Lustbader. "It's a no-brainer. She steps in and I know she's going to crush the ball. She's always going to hit the ball hard even if it's caught."
But it was the Vikings who came out on top in their type of game. Pia also saw more positives other than the big offensive performances from the middle of the order.
"We're running the bases aggressively, which is a big plus," Pia said. "We weren't doing that in the beginning of the season. Other people are hitting besides the top of the order and that's a plus."
Ryan Lacey is a freelance writer
WESTHILL 9, STAPLES
STAPLES 300 010 3 -- 7 11 3
WESTHILL 102 330 x -- 9 9 2
Records: Staples 9-7, 7-7 FCIAC; Westhill 13-3, 12-2.
Batteries: S -- Nikki Bukovsky (L), Katherine Burke and Maggie Mills; W -- Sadie Apfel (W) and Brittany Bautista. Highlights: S -- Emily Lustbader went 3-for-4 with three runs scored. Maggie Mills went 3-for-4 with a double and triple. W -- Tammy Wise went 2-for-3 with a home run and walk. Kate Brainard went 2-for-2 with two walks.