For the C-S-E
FORT PLAIN — Slow starts are becoming the norm for the Fort Plain Lady Hilltoppers.
“We seem to kind of be getting ourselves in this hole here, (where) we are waiting until the third, fourth or fifth inning to create runs,” Fort Plain head coach Katie McCumber said.
Last Thursday, against Northville Falcons pitcher Allison Wadsworth, the Lady Hilltoppers awoke with a start in the third inning. Fort Plain scored three runs in the third inning, four more in the fourth and tacked on an extra run in the fifth, as the Lady Hilltoppers cruised to an 8-0 victory in a non-league contest.
While the runs came in bunches in the middle innings for Fort Plain (5-3), the team was not thrilled with its effort against winless Northville (0-3).
“We got cocky because it was a slower pitcher and we thought we didn’t have to give 110 percent,” said Fort Plain first baseman Sam Potter. “I don’t think there’s any reason why we couldn’t have done the 15-run rule in this one.”
Potter was one of two Lady Hilltopper to record multiple base hits in the game, as the senior went 3-for-4 with a run batted in. Second baseman Allehah Van Loan went 2-for-3 out of the nine-spot in the order, while shortstop Abby Boyer also made a strong contribution in going 1-for-2 with two talks, with two runs scored and a run batted in.
While Fort Plain is hoping to make a run in sectionals this season, Northville head coach Brenda Jensen said this year is more of a rebuilding campaign for the Lady Falcons. Wadsworth is the team’s lone senior and pitching out of necessity; in the past, she has played shortstop for the club.
“But she’s started to throw really well,” said Jensen. “She’s coming around.”
Jensen’s 11-deep roster for this season includes four sophomores and two freshmen.
“It’s been a bit different (with the team being so young),” said Jensen. “I have some ninth graders and I think they sometimes get confused ... but they’re starting to catch better in the field and I think with only losing one senior after this year, next year we should be very competitive.”
The growing pains were evident Thursday. The Lady Falcons committed four errors in the field and Wadsworth and catcher JoAnna Schulte struggled to get on the same page, at times, as wild pitches and passed balls were a common occurrence.
Those problems came together to help lead to Fort Plain’s big third and fourth innings. In the two innings in which the Lady Hilltoppers scored seven of their runs, Fort Plain recorded just six hits, instead taking advantage of Northville miscues to circle the base paths; in the contest, Tara Schuyler was the only Lady Hilltopper to record an extra-base hit.
“It was hard trying to hit the different speeds,” said Fort Plain’s Jamie Fredericks. “We’ve seen faster this season and trying to get used to [Wadsworth’s] speed was difficult.”
Fredericks, who also pitched for Fort Plain, reached base three times and scored two runs in support of herself.
While the offense was sluggish, Fort Plain sparkled when defending on its home diamond. As the starting pitcher, Fredericks went five innings and allowed just two hits, while the defense behind her did not commit a single error. Erin Nellis, the team’s normal third baseman, relieved Fredericks in the sixth inning; in two innings of work, Nellis allowed two hits.
“Erin Nellis came in and pitched really well for us,” McCumber said of the junior, who also drove in a run and walked once during a hitless day at the plate.
The win was the Lady Hilltoppers’ second in as many days, as Fort Plain breezed past Schoharie, 9-1, last Wednesday.
“They’re more confident in themselves,” said McCumber of the players. “We feel like we have a really solid nine right now — our core — and they’re all doing their jobs.”
Potter said the back-to-back wins were well-received, but that she and the rest of the team needed to keep the early-season victories in perspective.
“Hopefully these wins push us forward, but don’t get us overconfident,” she said.