CHARLOTTESVILLE — After a lackluster showing against Hauser this past weekend, the Eastern Hancock softball team entered Tuesday night with something to prove, at least to their coach.
Royals manager Sue Anderson lamented her team’s recent string of slow starts and hoped the most recent one — Saturday’s 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Jets — would be enough motivation to convince her girls to come out of the gates strong Tuesday against Mid-Hoosier Conference rival Knightstown.
She got her wish.
The second-year coach looked on proudly from the third-base coach’s box, as her Royals jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first inning before carrying the momentum to an 11-2 victory.
“Coming off Saturday, this was huge for us,” Anderson said. “We struggled at the bat, and we just mentally weren’t in it. For once, we came out physically, mentally ready to go. Everyone contributed. It was just a very satisfying win.”
The highlight of that first frame came when sophomore Brooke Walden swatted a line-shot, two-run home run to left field off Knightstown starter Haley Fowler.
The Royals (2-2, 1-1 MHC) would tack one more in the opening inning and then let junior starting pitcher Darby Shaw handle the rest.
Shaw mowed down Knightstown (2-2, 1-2) hitters Tuesday, not allowing a hit until the fourth inning.
The loss of the no-hit bid did seem to shake Shaw, though, but only momentarily. She conceded a walk, then back-to-back hits, the last of which knocked in Knightstown’s first run.
The junior settled down after that, coaxing two straight ground balls to escape the inning with minimal damage.
Shaw (2-0) cruised the rest of the way, allowing just one final run on three more hits. She finished with six strikeouts, two walks and a complete game victory, her second of the season.
“She struggled on Saturday, but we threw her this game because we really wanted her to (rebound) strong,” Anderson said. “She has a lot more pitches and a lot more movement (than she showed Saturday), so it was very nice to see her comfortable on the mound.”
The offense provided all the run support Shaw would need in the first inning, but that did not stop them piling up some runs. The Royals would add a fourth run in the fifth inning before exploding in the sixth.
The Royals took advantage of four walks, four passed balls and a two-run error to put up a seven spot in the inning, effective ending the game.
For the game, Jordan Pierson led Eastern Hancock’s offense, going 3-for-3 with a double and two runs scored.
Walden added a pair of walks and another run to go along with her round-tripper. Peyton West carved out a pair of hits and a couple of runs, and Bree Ashby also collected two hits.
Anderson was undoubtedly excited after her Royals earned their first conference win of the season. However, the fact that it came against Eastern Hancock’s bitter rival didn’t really do much for her.
“You know, I don’t understand the whole Knightstown rivalry,” Anderson, formerly a coach at Morristown, said with a laugh. “This is only my second year, so I don’t think I quite get it. But it’s always good to beat a close opponent around here, I guess. I don’t know.”
Just like on Tuesday, in the Royals’ 3-2 win against the Panthers last season, a three-run inning against Fowler proved to be the difference. In that game, the Royals waited until the fifth inning to do their damage.
Eastern Hancock hosts Tri (2-0) on Saturday before heading to MHC rival Morristown (1-2, 0-2 MHC) on Tuesday. Peyton Neisler is scheduled to be on the bump for the Royals against the Titans.