Columbus East softball coach Sonny Stahl left Saturday’s doubleheader with plenty of positives, despite his team opening the season with a pair of setbacks.
The Olympians were beaten by Bloomington South 3-1 in the first contest and suffered an 8-6 loss in the second battle, yet Stahl still remained focused on what he believes will be a solid 2014 campaign.
“The girls have worked hard and are continuing to improve,” he said. “This (Bloomington South) team used to thrash us, but that doesn’t happen anymore.”
In fact, the Olympians were on their way to a split before faltering late in the second game, which they lead 6-4 after five innings. They also managed to combine for 14 hits in the twinbill and register several shining defensive plays.
Unfortunately for East, the visiting Panthers were able to create just enough offense in both outings to pull out the sweep. They used a combination of timely hits and an East miscue to propel them to victory in the opener, and then turned to the long ball in the second game, when they launched four home runs.
Elyse Babb was the big stick for the Olympians, producing multiple hits in both games. The sophomore catcher came out on fire as her first hit of the day was a line-drive solo homer over the left-
center field fence. She also contributed to the O’s four-run third-inning outburst in the second game.
Babb matched her performance behind the plate, as well, gunning down a Bloomington South runner in the first game and directing her team’s defense throughout.
“We expect Elyse to be doing that all season,” Stahl said. “She is just one of several key players we have this year.”
After the Panthers answered Babb’s blast with a trio of runs in the second inning, East had an opportunity to go back in front in the third following consecutive two-out singles by Erin Tharp and Babb, but Hayley Smalley’s deep fly was caught in right.
Neither team managed much offense the rest of the way, despite a pair of hits by East senior Kaitlyn Huffman.
Following a run-scoring double by Kaitlynn Dye in the second inning, the Olympians plated a quartet of runs in the third as Babb and Smalley both registered RBIs. Stahl’s team added another run in the bottom the fifth after Dye drove in Babb, who doubled off Panthers pitcher Katie Werneke.
The guests responded with a trio of runs on four hits and an East error in the top of the sixth, including a triple by Nikki Ennis, who returned to the plate in the top of the seventh inning and hit a solo homer.
Bloomington South also got solo shots from Whitney Ennis in the second and Nina Fulton in the third. Fulton returned to blast a two-run offering in top of the fifth to cut the Olympians’ lead to 6-4.
“Bloomington South is a good team and we played them well,” Stahl said. “We had some mistakes and we now know what to work on, but overall, I’m pleased with the girls.”