(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
CHAFFEE -- You couldn't ask for a much better start to the season than the one the Kelly Lady Hawks had.
Combining for 19 hits on the contest, the Lady Hawks grabbed a seven-run lead after two innings and held on for an 11-2 win against the host team, Chaffee Lady Devils.
"We have focused a lot on the hitting," Kelly head coach Rhonda Ratledge said, "because last year it seemed like we struggled with our hitting and I pretty much have the same girls back, just losing two seniors.
"I was definitely willing to focus quite a bit on that (in practice) because I only have four seniors and one junior this year. The rest our freshman and sophomores so if we can get them younger girls coming up to buy into the hitting stuff (we'll be alright)."
Each of the Lady Hawks' first four hitters in the contest were able to work their way on before coming around to score.
After starting pitcher Kristi Brucker sent Chaffee down in order in the bottom of the frame Kelly came back up and tacked another three runs on to their lead.
By the top of the fifth the Lady Hawks had moved up 9-0 and, if not for a heads up play by Chaffee shortstop Adrienne Eichhorn, may have sent the Lady Devils home early via the mercy rule.
With the potential winning run on second and no outs in the top of the fifth, Kelly hit a drive to short that a leaping Eichhorn was able to snag for an out.
Throwing to an alert second baseman, Eichhorn was able to double off the runner at second, who had strayed too far from the bag, to empty the bases.
Though they'd never catch up to the Lady hawks quick start, the Lady Devils did find some offense in the bottom of the frame. Pinch hitter Carleigh Burnett hit a two-out double to start things off before Eichhorn doubled her in to break up the shutout.
Eichhorn was able to score later on a passed ball for Chaffee's only other run of the game.
"I think we knew coming in that Kelly does all the little things right," Chaffee head coach Shawn Powderly said. "That's their reputation and it's a well deserved reputation. We came out the first couple innings and were a little shell-shocked I think.
"We didn't know quite what hit us there at the beginning, but after those first couple innings we settled down and played a 3-2 ball game."
In outhitting the Lady Devils 19-7, Kelly got an outstanding performance from the top of its lineup that included Samantha Ratledge, Morgan LeDure, Alexis Dock and Stephanie Worth. As a group the four combined to go 14-of-18, including four doubles and six runs-batted in.
LeDure was a perfect 5 for 5 at the plate with five singles while their cleanup hitter, Worth, also reached every time she stepped to the plate, going 4 for 4 with two doubles and four runs batted in.
For the first time in four years the Lady Hawks had a new leadoff hitter and center fielder as sophomore Samantha Ratledge took over both positions from the departed Emily Grojean.
Ratledge made a couple of key grabs in the outfield and doubled in her first two at bats before finishing 2 of 5 with a run batted in. With both positions being so key to the Lady Hawks style of play, coach Ratledge said it was a good sign for her team going forward.
"She did excellent job as a starter," Rhonda Ratledge said. "With her being my stepdaughter you're a little nervous. You're harder on your own so I didn't know how she would do at leadoff.
"She just stepped in, acted like it was no big deal and took over. That makes me feel real good. I'm real proud of her."
For the Lady Devils, Cierra Crites led the afternoon with a 2 for 3 performance that included a double while Eichhorn and Burnett provided the teams other extra-base hits. Kaitlyn Miller, Stevie Schrum and Julia Sutterfield added a single each to Chaffee's cause.
"We should hit the ball well (this season)," Powderly said. "Today I think it was just a little first half jitters that first time through the lineup. They weren't sure what to expect, but the second time through we started finding some gaps and hit the ball well."
Chaffee 000 020 0 - 2
Kelly 430 200 2 - 11
WP -- Kristi Brucker. LP -- Hailey Enderle. Multiple hitters -- (C) Cierra Crites 2-3; (K) Samantha Ratledge 2-5, Morgan LeDure 5-5, Alexis Dock 3-4, Stephanie Worth 4-4, Darbe Backfisch 2-3, Kristi Brucker 2-4. 2B -- (C) Adrienne Eichhorn, Crites, Carleigh Burnett; (K) Ratledge 2, Worth 2.