By GREG MENGELT
NEW ALBANY —
Chelsea Jordan’s return to her alma mater didn’t go quite as she would have liked.
The former Bulldog star and first-year Jeffersonville head coach watched Hannah Morton dominate on the mound and sophomore third baseman Whitney Atkins star at the plate and in the field as New Albany defeated rival Jeff 4-1 at Prosser Field on Wednesday.
While New Albany was expected to have a solid 2014 campaign, the 10-0 start has even caught some Bulldogs by surprise.
“I expected us to be really good, but I didn’t know we would come out this good,” Atkins said.
“I knew we had the potential,” New Albany coach Steve Belden said. “But that doesn’t always [result in a 10-0 start].
Jordan said she entered the day with nerves but returning to her former stomping grounds calmed her a bit.
“I was anxious,” Jordan admitted. “The anxiety got worse throughout the day, but this is home so I was comfortable.”
Morton certainly didn’t make Jordan — or the Devils’ hitters — very comfortable. She tossed a complete game without giving up an earned run. She struck out six Devils and surrendered just four hits and two walks.
“I don’t think I pitched my best. Not everything was working,” Morton said, “but I’m pretty happy with [my performance].”
“I think she did a really good job,” Atkins said. “She’s our best pitcher and she always knows how to come out on top.”
Jeff took a 1-0 lead after a half-inning when Morton walked Jennifer Peffley and scored when New Albany centerfielder Jena Fath dropped the potential third out. That was the only run the Devils could muster against Morton.
New Albany responded with two runs in the bottom of the first to take the lead for good. Fath walked to open the frame. After Atkins sacrificed her to second, Kennedy drove her home with a single that dropped into right field. A Morton single that scored Wynn gave the Bulldogs the lead for good.
Morton was in control until the fourth inning when Jocelyn Tincher ripped a one-out triple to the right-center fence. That’s when Atkins made the play of the game.
Courtney Shepherd drilled a one-hopper that appeared it would bounce over Atkins’ head. However, the sophomore third basemen took to the air, gloved the ball, looked Tincher back to third and got Shepherd out at first base.
“That made me really nervous. I didn’t want to let it get past me,” Atkins recalled. “I was actually kind of in shock when I got it because I don’t have very good hops.”
Morten got Tori Flaten to line out to shortstop to end the threat, but it was Atkins’ play that kept the Bulldogs in front.
“I told the coaches that was the game changer,” Belden recalled. “To go up, get the ball, look her back and get the out at first was a game changer. If she doesn’t make the play, it’s potentially a big inning for them.”
“That was definitely huge,” Morton said. “Probably saved us the game there.”
New Albany scored a pair of unearned runs — with help from singles from Danielle Williamson and Meg Biggs — in the sixth off hard-luck loser Emily Gray for a 4-1 lead.
Jeff was able to load the bases on two New Albany errors and an Emma Coons single in the seventh, but Morton struck out Demetria Towns to end the game.
“I expected them to play like they did,” Jordan said of the Bulldogs.
As for the Red Devils, Wednesday’s performance was far better than Monday’s five-inning, 10-0 loss to Floyd Central.
“We played good today,” Jordan said. “We kept knocking on the door. At the end of the day, I’m very pleased with the way we played today. We fought this whole game. We’re fighting.”
“I think Chelsea’s doing a real good job,” Belden said. “She’s going to bring that program back to where it’s been. I’m very impressed with where they were at the beginning of the year to where they are now. They’ve come a long way.”
Atkins and Morton led the New Albany offense. Morton was 2-for-2 with an RBI and Atkins was 2-for-2 with a sacrifice bunt.
“Whitney had a fantastic game,” Belden said. “That’s what we expect from Whitney. That’s what we know she has in her. I’m glad to see she was able to come through.”
Brook McCoy also reached twice for the Bulldogs, who have four days off before hosting rival Floyd Central on Monday.
“We’re looking forward to that,” Belden said. “Floyd is a team we like to guage ourselves at this point in the season. It’ll be a nice guage. They have a very, very nice team.”
Coons went 2-for-4 for Jeffersonville, which hosts Bedford North Lawrence tonight.
NEW ALBANY 4, JEFFERSONVILLE 1
Jeffersonville 100 000 0—1 4 3
New Albany 200 002 x—4 8 4
W — Hannah Morton (6-0). L — Emily Gray (1-5). 3B — Jocelyn Tincher (J).
Records — Jeffersonville 2-9, New Albany 10-0.