By ROB HAMILTON
Cardington’s bats didn’t need much help on Thursday against Mount Gilead, as the Pirates cracked 16 hits in their five-inning 18-5 win over the Indians, but the Indian defense was still generous in the early going.
Mount Gilead struggled in the field in the early going, which helped lead to Cardington taking an 8-0 lead after the first inning — an advantage they would not relinquish.
After the Pirates got through the top of the first without giving up any runs, they got off to a fast start, getting a double by Sam Brininger and single by Khyla Jones. With runners on second and third, Alyson Adams drove in one run with a sacrifice fly and Kirsten Dever added a second with a double.
Dakota Crum made it 3-0 with a run-scoring single. After a walk by Rachael Groves to Cass Starkey, Summer Morgan then drove in two scores, as did Brininger with her second double of the day.
Then, with the score 7-0, a dropped ball on a Jones’ pop-up allowed an eighth run to score, staking Cardington to a commanding lead.
After a number of days with poor weather, Cardington coach Tod Brininger wasn’t sure how his team would perform, so this early-game outburst was very pleasing to him.
“We’ve been outside this week once, so I’m extremely happy with how we came out,” he said. “One good thing about all this (weather) is that we focused on our hitting and it’s paying off.”
In the other dugout, Mount Gilead coach Jim Ullom could do little more than hope his team can get back on track in the field.
“You can’t come out and make three errors in the first against a quality opponent,” he said. “We’ve been in a funk for about five games where the gloves have left us. The biggest issue is we don’t have the pitching that other teams do, so we have to make plays on defense.”
The Pirates didn’t let up, getting three more runs in the second, as Aubrey Clark and Brooke Snyder both hit run-scoring singles and a third run scored on a wild pitch.
Trailing 11-0, the Indians were able to get on the board in the top of the third. Cardington opened the inning with some defensive struggles and Maddie Bell then loaded the bases with one out on a bunt single. Pirate pitcher Snyder then walked both Raygan Walters and Sarah Moodispaugh to make it 11-2 before Keirston Pangborn drove in a third run on a groundout. Brininger noted that his pitcher’s third-inning struggles weren’t all that surprising, as the weather had prevented her from getting her regular on-the-mound work in over the past few days.
“Brooke hasn’t pitched since last Thursday, so it was no surprise,” he said. “She usually hits her spots and has been great this year.”
The Pirates backed up their pitcher in the bottom of the inning, pouring on five more runs to take a 16-3 lead.
With runners on first and third, Adams drove both in and then Dever smacked a two-run homer. The fifth run scored on another wild pitch.
Both Jones and Dever drove in runs in the fourth inning for Cardington before Mount Gilead got two more runs of their own in the fifth inning.
Moodispaugh drove in one run with a double and Emily Gravley brought her in with a hit. However, the Pirates were able to get out of the inning before the Indians could get back within 10 runs, allowing them to close out the contest with a 13-run victory.
Ullom noted that his team is still very young and has a good bit of talent, but needs to have a good offseason in order to meet its potential.
“I really think we’re still competitive and decent enough to pull off an upset or two,” he said. “We’re still young with 17 of 25 girls either freshmen or sophomores and only one junior. We just have to have an offseason — you get better there, not during the regular season.”
For Cardington, who moved to 8-0 in league play with the win, Brininger was happy his squad was able to claim its second win over the Indians and moved closer to a Blue Division title.
“We talked about that yesterday and today that when it’s Cardington versus Mount Gilead, the records don’t matter,” he said. “We want to focus on ‘we control what we can control’ and we did that.”
Rob Hamilton may be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 204.