By GREG MENGELT
After Wednesday’s 15-0 loss to Class 4A No. 4 Jennings County, Silver Creek coach Dave Harvey wanted his Dragons to prove something Thursday at Clarksville.
After falling behind 2-0 and 6-4 to the Generals, Sliver Creek (2-3) responded positively with 12 straight runs for a five-inning, 16-6 victory in the Dragons’ Mid-Southern Conference opener.
“It was the difference between night and day,” Harvey said. “[Against Jennings], for three innings we were with them. Then in the fourth, the wheels fall off. Our kids are so young. They start thinking instead of playing. Tonight we battled back and took advantage of some of their miscues.”
After going scoreless in the first two innings, the Dragons scored at least four runs in the final three frames before scoring eight to earn the 10-run victory. The Dragons had 11 hits, including a pair of doubles.
“Our offense has been the best it’s been all season and hopefully it keeps improving,” Silver Creek second baseman Heather Knight said.
Clarksville coach Tim Hauber said his starting pitcher, sophomore Bailey Sharp, lost focus after the second inning.
“She didn’t hit a spot all night,” Hauber said of Sharp. “She’s just not mentally tough enough to play at this level yet. In softball, it’s about hitting spots. You’re going to lose when you throw pitches down the middle and [the Dragons] were opportunists.”
The Dragons got contributions from nearly everyone in the lineup. Knight was 2-for-3 and with three RBIs and two runs, Olivia Scarbrough went 2-for-4, crossed the plate twice and drove in a run and McKenzie Bush went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run.
However, the Dragons were most pleased to see the bottom of his order produce.
“I think it’s really important that your whole lineup can hit through,” Knight said. “Then you have strong at-bats all the way through and you don’t have a weak link.”
“We expect that from them, from everybody,” Bush said.
After producing the game-winning run in Saturday’s 3-2 victory over Madison, Creek’s No. 9 hitter Kami Pennington was effective again Thursday.
She had a squeeze bunt in the third inning before an RBI single in the fourth. She later scored in the four-run fourth.
“That’s why we have her down there,” Harvey said. “We look at her as a second leadoff. With the bottom of the order — the six, seven, eight, nine coming through for us — it’s a blessing if they hit the ball like they did today.”
In the eight hole, Silver Creek’s Gabby Jones went 1-for-1, reached base in every plate appearance and scored three times in the victory.
“I thought Gabby hit the ball well,” Harvey said. “She was on base all night long. She’s only a sophomore, but that’s what we need.”
As good as Creek was with its bats, it was equally dangerous on the base paths. The Dragons put pressure on the Clarksville defense throughout the contest and swiped seven bases.
“We have a lot of fast girls this year,” Knight said. “Speed is what we have.”
Creek was helped on the base paths by five General errors, six wild pitches and a pair of passed balls.
“It was all mental,” Hauber said. “Everything today was mental.”
The Dragons added four errors in what was a sloppy early-season MSC contest.
“It’s early in the season [and] we haven’t gotten to play a lot of games because we’ve had a lot of rainouts,” Bush said. “So it’s still really early for us.”
“We had some defensive lapses, but we’re still trying to find our identity,” Harvey said.
The Generals took an early 2-0 lead, but it could have been worse.
With runners on second and third and two out in the first, Sharp scorched a Bush pitch. Both General baserunners — Kayla Wallace on third and Ali Sparkman on second — assumed the ball with land in right field. However, Jones showed her range and made the catch in right-center. Sparkman was easily doubled up on second.
“That’s just a poor, poor baserunning error,” Hauber said.
In the second, two Bush errors allowed Clarksville to take a 2-0 lead. After the Dragons scored four times in the third, thanks to a Jones double and RBI singles from Knight and Scarbrough, Clarksville scored three more to take a 5-4 lead.
Meghan Hall reached on another Dragon error and Sharp singled into left field. Kate Wingler followed with two-out blast over the right-center fence.
“She worked the count good, she got a pitch and she drove the heck out of it,” Harvey said.
“We were on her,” Hauber said of Bush. “Six runs should be enough to win a ballgame without kicking the ball around.”
Silver Creek took the lead for good in the fourth with four more runs, including a two-RBI single from Knight.
The Dragons broke it open in the fifth. Shayla Cravens doubled and Bush and Hannah Mattingly each hit singles to chase Sharp. After two walks and an error, Bush and Mattingly each hit her second single of the frame to force the mercy rule.
Clarksville (2-3, 0-2 MSC) will host Southwestern tonight. Silver Creek faces Class A No. 8 Lanesville in the opening round of the New Albany Invitational on Saturday. The Dragons will face New Albany or Trinity Lutheran in the final round.
SILVER CREEK 16, CLARKSVILLE 6
Silver Creek 004 48—16 11 4
Clarksville 023 10— 6 5 5
W — McKenzie Bush (2-1). L — Bailey Sharp (2-3). 2B — Shayla Cravens (S), Gabby Jones (S). HR — Kate Wingler (C).
Records — Silver Creek 2-3 (1-0 MSC); Clarksville 2-3 (0-2 MSC).