By Jason Elmquist
STILLWATER, Okla. —
With a roster full of underclassmen, the Stillwater High softball squad got a boost from one of the few seniors on the team to slay Sapulpa in district action Thursday at Little Couch Park.
Courtney Hughes, who went 3 for 4 with a two-run double and two runs scored, not only helped the Lady Pioneers to an 8-1 victory at the plate, but also came up with some big defensive plays at center field.
“Tonight Courtney stepped up to the plate for us offensively and defensively,” SHS coach Amber Davis said. “She was a game-changer out in center field. If she doesn’t make a couple of those catches it changes an inning for us.”
The Lady Pioneers put two runs up in the first inning with Emily Madison scoring on a wild pitch and senior McKinsey Stokes — who reached on an error — coming home on a two-out single by sophomore Christy Leim.
After leaving the bases loaded in the second, Stillwater had it’s biggest inning in the third, putting four runs on the scoreboard. Sage Fluty and Leim led off the inning with back-to-back walks to set up Hughes for a two-run double. The senior center fielder would then come home on a fielder’s choice by Madison — who went 2 for 3 at the plate — three batters later. Stillwater’s final run of the inning would come from freshman Jamie Nichols, who scored on a passed ball.
Hughes and Nichols scored Stillwater’s final two runs in the fifth inning with a fielder’s choice by freshman Cailin Fluty and an error on Stokes’ last at-bat.
“I was really just patient and just waiting for my pitch,” Hughes said of her night at the plate. “(Wednesday) we had done a lot of hitting all practice, and before the game we did some hitting drills and that just helped a lot.”
The play as a whole was a far cry from Monday’s struggles against Westmoore. With the improved play, the Stillwater freshman pitcher was able to relax and just make pitches.
Lane retired nine straight Sapulpa batters in the middle innings and gave up just one hit in the final five innings — with four perfect innings pitched.
“We worked with her and just talked to her about hitting her spots. If you hit your spots, your defense will back you up and her nerves settled tonight and it showed,” Davis said.
Helping the freshman pitcher to a three-hit, one-run victory was the defense behind her. Sans one inning — in which the Lady Pioneers committed two errors which led to the lone Sapulpa run — Stillwater’s defense made some highlight plays for Lane.
Hughes carried her play from the plate into the field with three spectacular catches at center field and made five putouts for the game. Also coming up with some defensive highlights was sophomore shortstop Emily Madison — with three putouts.
“We more consistent on defense. I think the jitters are gone,” Davis said. “They are starting to get in a rhythm and they know they’ve got to back Taylor up.”