CHARLOTTESVILLE — Pat Medler’s preseason assessment couldn’t have been more accurate. With an inexperienced pitching group, the first-year Eastern Hancock head coach knew the Royals would heavily rely on their high-powered offense entering a new season.
All the pitching staff needs to do is keep the Royals in the game. The offense will do the rest. Kaysi Gilbert helped prove that in the team’s season-opening win.
Gilbert, a senior second baseman, was a perfect 4-for-4 at the plate on Tuesday, knocking two doubles to finish with three RBI in a 12-5 win over Cambridge City Lincoln. But she wasn’t the only Royal on fire.
Junior shortstop Micah Black finished 3-for-4 and brought home a team-high six RBI, while senior catcher Peyton West was also 3-for-4 at the plate with a double and home run. That talented trio combined for all 11 of the team’s RBI against the visiting Eagles.
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“(Kaysi) Gilbert was unbelievable; she had a great night,” said Medler, who was an assistant with the team last season. “That first group (in the batting order), they carried us without a question. We made way too many defensive mistakes early. They put the ball in play, but we found a lot of gaps out there.”
Last season, Eastern Hancock topped Cambridge City Lincoln 2-0 on the road to begin its season.
On Tuesday, freshman pitcher Jessi Potts was credited with the win in her first varsity outing. She replaced sophomore starter Elise Bittinger after the third inning. The young duo, which will split time on the mound, allowed eight hits in the win.
It didn’t take much time for Bittinger, who saw limited action behind workhorse Darby Shaw (IPFW) last season, to receive her “welcome to varsity softball” moment, too. The sophomore worked her way out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning but allowed four runs in the second off of two defensive errors and three singles from the Eagles’ offense.
Bittinger regrouped, however, and exited the game with Eastern Hancock leading 5-4 after three innings of play. Potts allowed four hits, including two doubles, but held Cambridge City Lincoln scoreless the rest of the way.
“I thought Elise did OK; we are going to experiment early on,” Medler said. “And Jessie did well in her first outing. We have a lot more we can do with that (pitching).
“We just can’t make the mistakes (errors) we did tonight.”
Gilbert, who hits in the No. 2 hole, got the offense going in the first inning with a single over first base. After a Brooke Walden pop out, West would blast a lining double over third base to score Gilbert all the way from first. Black, hitting directly behind West in the No. 5 spot, would follow with an RBI double of her own. Next was Bittinger, who would put the ball in play to score Black for the team’s third and final run of the inning.
After scoring one run in both the second and third innings, one off a solo home run from West, Eastern Hancock scored a combined seven runs in the fifth and sixth innings to run away with the win. Four of the runs were knocked in by Gilbert and Black, who notched a double and single in their final at-bats for the home team.
Also for the Royals on Tuesday, sophomore leadoff hitter Faithe Webster finished with a single, a run scored and a stolen base.
Eastern Hancock, which plays three games this week, takes the field again today at home against Randolph Southern.
Eastern Hancock 12, Cambridge City Lincoln 5
WP: Potts 1-0 (EH). LP: Hall (CCL).
RBI: West 2, Black 6, Gilbert 3 (EH); Pugh, Hall (CCL). 2B: West, Black 2, Gilbert 2 (EH); Hall, Miller (CCL). HR: West (EH). SB: Webster (EH); Pugh (CCL).