MADISON — In Columbus East’s 7-1 Hoosier Hills Conference Tournament win against Madison’s Cubs on Friday night, Erin Tharp was getting some good looks at the plate.
Almost too good.
After Tharp got the Olympians’ hits started with a double to deep left field, she was able to connect on an RBI single in the second inning as well as an RBI double to deep center field in the sixth.
“When she hit the ball, she hit it hard,” East softball coach Sonny Stahl said. “She has struggled a lot this season in her consistency at bat, but she was able to get a lot of good looks tonight.”
For Tharp, it was all a matter of confidence.
“I just tried to remain as focused as possible,” Tharp said. “I knew the hits would come, but I had to stay patient and make sure it was going to be the right swing.”
The Olympians (5-13) will face New Albany at 11 a.m. today for fifth place in the HHC.
East scored four runs in the second inning, with Kiersten Henderson knocking in the first two runs off a double into left field. Henderson said the team’s batting just before she stepped in the box got her confidence up.
“The team really helped me pull through and get a good hit,” Henderson said. “They make it so much easier for me to get a hit when they are consistently hitting the ball well.
“I was feeling really good at the plate,” she said. “This was one of our better hitting performances this season, and our defense helped by keeping them from scoring for much of the contest.”
After the Cubs (8-8) scored their only run in the fifth inning, the Olympians retaliated with a five-hit, three-run inning when Kaitlin Wagner crushed the ball into deep center for an RBI-triple, followed by a run by Tharp and an RBI-single from Elyse Babb.
Taylor Hilderbrand and Tharp each finished 3 for 4, while Kaitlynn Dye, Babb and Henderson all had two hits.
Stahl said the main focus for East has been communication.
“I have stressed to the team that communication is key,” Stahl said. “The girls took that to heart and came out and made some great defensive plays and connected with some real good hits.”
Hayley Smalley allowed six hits and threw five strikeouts, retiring seven straight Madison batters at one point.
“We are progressing with every game,” Stahl said. “This is one of the better team’s I’ve coached in recent years. The girls want to improve every day, and they have been showing it lately.”
Tharp said the team needs to continue to improve on the little things.
“We still need to improve on our fielding,” Tharp said. “We can’t be inconsistent defensively, not make mental mistakes and stay focused for the rest of the season.”