Not so pretty win
Nine timely hits, good base-running offset six errors in Polson's 5-1 win over Hamilton
POLSON — Timely hitting made up for a string of untimely errors committed by the Polson Lady Pirates last Thursday.
Polson's six errors could have proved much more costly, but in the end Hamilton's Lady Broncs scored just one run in the fifth inning. And the Lady Pirates made up for it with three insurance runs in the fifth inning to post a 6-1 non-conference victory.
Kodi Woods led Polson's offense early, beating out a bunt in the first inning, moving to second on a passed ball and stealing third. Riley Kenney batted Woods in by beating out a grounder to the shortstop.
Polson scored again in the third inning to go up 2-0 when Kenney hit a sacrifice fly to score Staci Benson from third.
Lady Pirate pitcher Shay Duford was pitching well, on her way to a nine-strikeout, two-walk performance on the mound. But a small string of errors, a hit and a walk suddenly turned the tables in the top of the fifth inning.
Duford got the first batter to ground out to second-baseman Kylie Knutson. But Benson committed her third throwing error of the game with a wide throw to first that put a runner on first. Hamilton's Nichole Hood hit a liner to right-center, followed by a walk drawn by Annie Schultz and suddenly Hamilton had the bases loaded with just one out.
The next batter hit a grounder to Benson at short, who uncharacteristically threw wide of first base again, allowing Hamilton to score a run.
But, with all the momentum on Hamilton's side, that's when Duford decided to put an end to the Lady Bronc's run. After striking out the next batter, she got the third out with a grounder to Knutson, who tossed the runner out to close out top of the inning.
"Shay sure pitched her way out of it ... that young girl just impresses me so much every time out," Polson head coach Larry Smith said. "She's such a competitor. She understands that sometimes she just has to come up with a little more effort. For the variety of pitches I have her throw, she sure has great control."
Nobody was happier to head for the dugout than Benson, who was steaming about her throwing errors. But she felt a lot better two pitches later when she sent a frozen rope to the center-field fence for a triple.
Just about everybody at the softball field could hear a great big sigh escape from Benson as she stood on the bag at third, finally cracking her steely persona by giving up a small smile to her coach.
"She was so upset ... that triple was the best thing that could have happened. It took a lot of bad feelings off her shoulders. Staci can really beat up on herself when she makes a mistake," coach Smith said.
Woods knocked Benson home with a very close bunt out. Polson continued the run with Ashley Johnson banging the ball up the middle to score Kayla Duford and Makaliah Wilson for a 5-1 Lady Pirate lead.
"She's been due," Smith said of Johnson's two-RBI hit. "She's been hitting the ball but not through the gaps. That's one lady I need to see on base more. She's got great speed and timing ... She can really get a jump."
With a comfortable 5-1 lead, Shay Duford and the Polson defense held Hamilton scoreless to secure the win and improve to 3-0.
It didn't go as planned, though. Smith said his players were anxious to hit against Hamilton's pitcher, who doesn't throw the ball all that fast.
"I think the girls were overly anxious to swing against their pitcher. She would throw us a changeup and we'd get caught. But when we got serious, our small ball got us going," Smith said. "Team-wise, I thought we ran the bases really well. They've all got good speed."
It wasn't a pretty win and Smith knows he's got to cut down on the fielding errors. But, as he learned after the game, the miscues from Benson aren't just mental errors.
"I found out after the game that Staci's shoulder was bothering her ... an old injury from her sophomore year has flared back up," Smith explained. "She was trying to change her throwing motion from a sidearm to almost an underhand motion."
She's been doing well with the change in practice, but four of the throws in Thursday's game went wide right. Smith is hoping it's just a matter of getting used to the new throwing motion.
"That young lady is very talented. She's always amazed me with how she can throw from so many different angles," the coach noted. "She has a hard time getting her elbow up above shoulder height. But she doesn't want to quit and she doesn't want to switch positions. She definitely wants to play shortstop so we'll have to see how it goes this week. But we definitely can't have these errors ... we've got to clean that up."
She'll have plenty of opportunity to try out the new motion this week. Polson hosted Ronan on Tuesday and picked up a 9-1 win over the Maidens. The Lady Pirates will host Whitefish on Thursday, then play in the Frenchtown Invitational Friday and Saturday. On Friday, Polson takes on Anaconda at 5:30 p.m. On Saturday, the Lady Pirates play Butte Central at 9:30 a.m. and Loyola at 1 p.m.
Sallie Sams is back in the lineup and playing second base after missing the Hamilton game due to a trip to a choral festival.
"Whitefish will be a big game for us. In my mind, they were probably the better team in the conference," Smith note. "We thumped them pretty good up there, but hopefully we'll be ready."
Polson 5, Hamilton 1
Hamilton 000 010 0–1 4 2
Polson 101 030 x–5 9 6
Jessica Bourne and Presley Chadwick. Shay Duford and Kayla Duford. WP - Duford (3-0). LP - Bourne (0-4).
HAMILTON - Melissa Hood 1-4, Kaylie Strandberg 1-4, Nichole Hood 1-4, Annie Schultz 1-4, Elizabeth Taylor 0-4, Presley Chadwick 0-4, Mikhala Wilson 0-3, Kailey Bergren 0-2, Jessica Bourne 0-3.
POLSON - Staci Benson 2-4, Kodi Woods 2-3, Kayla Duford 1-3, Riley Kenney 0-2, Makaliah Wilson 1-3, Ashley Johnson 1-3, Kylie Knutson 1-3, Colleen Jacobson 1-3, Shay Duford 0-2.
3B - Benson. RBIs - Woods, Kenney 2, Johnson 2.