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Remaining unbeaten in district

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A throw sails over the head of a leaping Bryce Barnes at third base.A throw sails over the head of a leaping Bryce Barnes at third base.

By Brian Besch
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Big Sandy baseball beat the tar out of the feathered Friday, defeating the High Island Cardinals 15-2 in just five innings.

The Wildcats got the offense going early, as Brayden Young was hit by a pitch. After advancing a base, Milton Hoffman got him in with a sacrifice. Kainey Alec doubled and Adrian Thompson drove him in on a base hit. After Trace Flores reached, Bryce Barnes brought the third run in on a double for a 3-0 lead after an inning.

The ‘Cats added two more in the second, when Tony Carter singled and stole a base, Young was hit by another pitch and Hoffman drove both in with a single.

The Cardinals got a run back in the top half of the third inning and Young relieved Hunter Brown after two-plus innings on the mound.

Up 5-1, the group from Dallardsville answered with five more. Barnes was beaned, Jason Valderez walked and Carter was also hit by a pitch to load the bases. Ethan Murphy also took a pitch to the body, driving in a run. A wild pitch brought in a run and Young got the eighth run in on a sacrifice fly. Hoffman drove in a run with a base hit, Alec and Adrian Thompson took a base on balls to load the bags again, and Flores walked to drive one in.

Three different hurlers took the mound to get some work for the Wildcats. Players shifted positions and showed little drop off, something Big Sandy coach Blake Brown said has expanded in 2022.

“We can improve in every aspect all the time, but our defense has been a lot better. We have the pieces to be able to move around and it really makes us flexible,” Brown said. “With any pitcher on the mound, I feel like we don't have any holes. That is big for us. We moved Tony Carter from shortstop to catcher this year and that has really shored us up behind the plate and has allowed us to move Trace to second base. It just kind of fits and everyone is feeling a little bit better than they did last year. Our guys are just playing hard and playing fast.”

Needing a run to possibly close the game early, the Wildcats scored five in the fourth inning. Valderez tripled and took home when Carter was caught in a rundown. Murphy bunted for a hit and Young picked up an RBI on a single. Hoffman produced the second triple of the inning, allowing two to score. He would score soon after on an error at third.

Big Sandy is now 10-6 on the season, but 6-0 in district and tied atop 25-2A. Scheduling schools a classification or even two above 2A, the team played well, according to Brown. District play has been lopsided, with a 93-7 cumulative score over the six contests.

“Sabine Pass is coming up this week and they are always competitive. Evadale is the next and then West Hardin, so I think the next three weeks are going to get us ready for the playoffs,” Brown said. “Our thing is our (non-district). We played up as much as we could to see the best amount of pitching that we could see before the playoffs. Our guys competed really well in those tournaments. We went 2-1 in the last tournament at Little Cypress-Mauriceville with wins over West Orange-Stark and Hemphill. We got to see some really good pitching that weekend too. I think that is going to propel us to hit better pitching in the playoffs this year. As long as we play clean defense, which we have been, I think we have a pretty good shot to make a run.”

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Hardin pulls away late

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Brady Smith started the game on the mound for Onalaska.Brady Smith started the game on the mound for Onalaska.By Brian Besch
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Onalaska baseball was able to keep Friday’s contest close for a while, but a disastrous final inning gave Hardin a comfortable 14-2 win.

The Hornets started the game off with four runs in the first inning. Pitcher Brady Smith would then settle in and was more effective overt he next four-plus innings.

Hardin grabbed two more runs in the third, but Onalaska answered. Lucas Jackson walked and stole a base, and Aiden Roberts and Zachary Taylor were both hit by a pitch. With the bases loaded, Jackson scored on a wild pitch to make the game 6-1.

“We did well early on in the season. We had a couple of really positive tournaments that we went to and our kids have been hitting the ball really well,” Onalaska coach Cody Pinkert said. “We had one stretch where we had two games that we pounded out 21 hits in two games. We were really excited about that, but for whatever reason we are really struggling right now. We didn’t get a lot of hits against Anderson(-Shiro) on Wednesday and obviously we struggled again today. I’m not sure what the answer is, but we are going to get back to work next week and see what happens.”

The two teams each picked up a run in the fourth. Grant Thornton was beaned and then stole second. He would score on a fielder’s choice, just before a runner was caught between first and second in a rundown. 

Up 7-2, the Hornets pushed seven insurance runs across in the seventh.

“The score is not indicative of what this team is capable of,” Pinkert said. “Anderson-Shiro was the district champions last year and they beat us 3-2 on Wednesday night and we competed the entire game. I think we just let this get away from us a little bit. Our district this year – I feel like there has been a lot of separation in the past. I feel like everybody has kind of clumped together this year. I think it is going to be a lot of everybody beating each other up and hopefully we can take advantage of that and figure out a way to get in the playoffs.”

The coach said hitting has been something the team could rely on, referencing the Cleveland tournament, where they collected 21 hits over two games.

“Hitting early on was a strength. Pitching has been a strength and our defense is probably one of the best groups that I’ve had. We struggled in that last inning (tonight) and made some errors, but I stand by it 100%. This is one of the best defenses that I have had at Onalaska in the past seven or eight years since I’ve been here. Sometimes we don’t have as much footspeed as I would like in the outfield, but that is OK. Our guys can play and I’m happy to have them out there. They get out there and work hard and that is all that I can ask for.”

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Looking for consistency

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Savanna Benningfield threw seven innings for the Lady Cats.Savanna Benningfield threw seven innings for the Lady Cats.

By Bian Besch
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Onalaska softball lost a heartbreaker Friday, stung 3-2 by the Lady Hornets of Hardin. Lady Cat pitcher Savanna Benningfield flirted with danger all afternoon, escaping multiple threats from the Hardin offense. It would finally catch up to her in the final frame, as the Lady Hornets got two runs to win it.

The ‘Cats broke the scoreless tie in the third inning with a run. Benningfield singled and Chasitie Roberts was hit by a pitch. Both advanced on a double steal and Madison Wilson drove Benningfield in with a sacrifice grounder to go up 1-0.

A couple of errors produced two Lady Hornets in scoring position, and a sacrifice fly brought one in. Kenadi Houser fielded a grounder at shortstop and threw home to catch a baserunner at the plate, preserving the 1-1 tie.

“We are just not consistent and our bats are not consistent,” new Onalaska softball coach Ashley Sustaita said. We came out Tuesday and hit the ball, with 21 hits. Tonight, we can barely hit the ball out of the infield. We are working on consistency and we had errors tonight. We are trying to clean up the basics of the game and making sure they have a confidence to play the way they are supposed to play.”

Onalaska went back to work in the fourth, with Alora Pinkert starting the ‘Cats off on an infield single. Houser reached on error and the pair stole bags on the next pitch. Kalli Saucier smacked a pop fly into centerfield that fell just short of the wall and into a glove. However, it was plenty deep for Pinkert to tag and score, going up 2-1.

A double with a runner on in the seventh inning allowed Hardin to tie the score at 2-2. A Texas Leaguer drove in the go-ahead run with two outs. Houser chased the looper to the grass from her shortstop position, but couldn’t quite track it down.

The Lady Cat defense played well in places, saving a few runs. Pinkert made a good catch in left that likely saved two runs in the sixth and Brittany Phillips caught a liner and doubled up a runner on second in the third.

“We started (the season) on a 7-0 run and won the Madisonville tournament,” Sustaita said. “We took them to Wimberley and we saw some really good teams. It was good for us. We hit the ball and did what we needed to do. When we came back, it got in our head and we have to refocus. I thought Tuesday turned the corner for us, but we hit this bump again and we just have to get over it and be ready.”

The coach said the district is all over the place and anyone can win on a given night. This is Sustaita’s first season as softball coach, but she has coached most of her girls on the basketball court for years.

“They have accepted us and accepted me with open arms. They are working hard. The biggest thing is that softball is such a mind game. If they don’t have the right mindset when they are on the field and in the batter’s box, it doesn’t matter. They have to believe in themselves and that is what we are trying to instill in them.”

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Ladycats fall to district’s top team

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Lauryn Hoffman singles and drives in a run with this swing.Lauryn Hoffman singles and drives in a run with this swing.

By Brian Besch

Big Sandy softball dropped a 9-5 game to Deweyville, the District 24-2A leaders, Friday afternoon in Dallardsville.

The Ladycats struck first in the game, when leadoff hitter Chloe Cox reached on a walk. Maddy Ager got her over on a fielder’s choice, and Cox would score on a passed ball.

However, Deweyville would answer with three runs in the second inning and another three in the fourth, to take a 6-1 advantage.

“Deweyville, the team that just beat us, is undefeated in district,” Big Sandy coach Mark Young said. “They 10-run ruled Evadale, so for us to come away with 9-5, I thought that was good for us. A lot of these girls are inexperienced, so I think it will be good for them going into the rest of the season. We are senior heavy and we are a freshman heavy. We have just a couple of sophomores and juniors.”

Ager would get the ‘Cats offense going in the bottom half of the fourth inning with a single, followed by the same from Madison Gardner. Lauryn Hoffman singled in a run. Shelly Weatherford would drive in a run in with a base hit, making the contest 6-3.

Again, the Lady Pirates answered, scoring a run in each of the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

Down 9-3 in their final at-bats, Big Sandy did not surrender. Dallas Holder reached by error and Ager walked. The Lady Pirate battery had issues in the final frame, allowing Holder to score on a wild pitch and Ager to get in on a passed ball. One more baserunner reached before Deweyville was able to obtain the final out.

“I just told them that we could have just laid down and quit and we didn’t. We kept battling, and that meant a whole lot,” Young said. “I am very excited (about this season). Last year, we struggled mainly with numbers. This year, we don’t have that problem. Instead of just trying to get nine on the field, I have three or four on the bench where there is not anything less than what is on the field.”

Big Sandy is still in a good position in the district race at 3-1. They will travel to High Island on Tuesday.

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