SOFTBALL: West Ouachita 15, Sterlington 3
Leading 4-3 with two outs and the bases empty in the top of the third, West Ouachita strung together six straight hits to break the game wide open en route to a 15-3 victory over Sterlington on a chilly Wednesday evening.
Besides putting a damper on the Lady Panthers' season-opener, the Lady Chiefs (1-1) spoiled their former coach's debut with his new team. Sterlington coach Jack Goode spent the past five years at West Ouachita, including the past four as head softball coach.
There were some changes in the visitor's dugout as well. Ashley Burkett Hoyle, a former Lady Chiefs' catcher and assistant coach, notched her first victory as a head coach. Meanwhile, former Sterlington trainer Paul "Doc" Vaughn, the Lady Chiefs' new first base coach — admitted that it felt a little strange to be in the visitor's dugout at Panther Park.
West Ouachita, which scored in every inning, grabbed a 3-0 lead in the top of the first after loading the bases with one out on a slap single by Bobbi Smith and a pair of walks. Amy Crockett's sacrifice fly to center chased Smith home with the first run of the game. Another walk to Allison Tryon loaded the bases and Rebecca Skains smoked a two-run single to right.
"Their lineup is strong one through nine," Goode said of his former team. "They have a lot of hitters mixed in with very few weak spots. It's early in the year, so both teams made some errors. They just put a lot more balls in play.
"We made some mental mistakes. We have to know what to do with the ball before the pitch. There were a couple of times where we kind of got lost, but it's early. That's what these early games are for — making adjustments."
Sterlington answered with a three-spot of its own in the home half of the first.
Sarah Gandy lined a full-count pitch over the left field fence for a leadoff home run to trigger the inning. Avery Elkins followed with an infield single and slid in safely at second as Taylor Wilson reached on a fielder's choice bunt. Elkins and Wilson both advanced on a double steal, setting up Cassidy Brady's sacrifice fly to right. Wilson beat the throw to the plate on Alex McMorris' fielder's choice grounder to shortstop, squaring the score at 3.
West Ouachita third baseman Tiffany Frost then made a diving catch on Chelbi Johnson's bunt and threw to Laynie Sims at second base to complete an inning-ending double play.
It was all West Ouachita the rest of the way.
Alex Edwards roped a double to the left field wall to open the top of the second, moved to third on a wild pitch and eventually crossed home with the go-ahead run on Allie Medlin's RBI groundout.
After the first two batters went down in order in the third, the Lady Chiefs assumed control of the game by rattling off six straight singles. Skains singled up the middle and Frost and Edwards legged out consecutive infield hits.
Back to the top of the batting order, Smith stroked an RBI single over the second base bag, Sims drove in two runs with a base hit to left-center and Allie Medlin punched a run-scoring single to right. Two more runs scored as Ashton Russell reached on an error, bringing the score to 10-3.
West Ouachita added four more in the fourth and one in the fifth.
Tryon walked leading off the fourth, Skains doubled off the right field fence, Frost singled both runners across and Edwards doubled to left. Smith followed with a sac fly to center and Edwards later scored on a wild pitch.
Crockett's home run into a cross wind in straightaway center field in the fifth wrapped up the scoring.
Sterlington had its opportunities to get back on the board, leaving the bases loaded in the third, wasting a leadoff single by Amber Knight in the fourth and stranding two in the fifth.
"We have to do a better job of getting on top of the ball instead of popping everything up and making it easy for them," Goode said. "You can do all the drills you want, but nothing accomplishes more than seeing live pitching three times a week."
Batting from the No. 9 slot, Edwards paced the Lady Chiefs' 14-hit onslaught with two doubles, a single and three runs scored. Skains went 3-for-4 with a double and drove in two runs, Smith was 3-for-3 with a sac fly and two RBI, Frost went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI, Crockett knocked in two runs with a homer and a sac fly and Sims and Medlin singled.
Elkins doubled and singled for the Lady Panthers, Gandy went deep and Wilson, McMorris and Knight singled.
Tryon struck out four and walked two for the win, while Gandy was dealt the loss.
"It's better for this to happen now than at the end of the year," Goode said. "I've said all along that it's the last three games at Sulphur that I'm worried about. All that matters right now is learning and getting better.
"These girls are not used to getting beat like this (Sterlington was 25-3 last season). The pressure is on us as coaches to make sure they take losing the right way and not get frustrated."
Notes: Continuing a tradition started last season at West Ouachita, Crockett, the Lady Chiefs' sophomore catcher, had Goode sign her home run ball after the game. … Brady, the Lady Panthers' third baseman and cleanup batter, and Tryon have both signed letter of intents to play for Bossier Parish Community College next season. … The bottom third of West Ouachita's batting order — Skains, Frost and Edwards — were a collective 8-for-10 with four RBI, three doubles and seven runs scored. … Due to the threat of rain on Thursday, the game was moved to Wednesday. … Both teams are schedule to play in the Polar Bear Classic on Friday and Saturday at ULM and West Ouachita. Neville coach Jeff Tannehill began preparing an alternate schedule Wednesday night in case of rain.