There won’t be any talk of an undefeated season this time around.
Augusta’s softball team, which won 23 straight games last year, mustered just a handful of hits and couldn’t push a run across the plate during Thursday’s season opener against Mulvane. The Wildcats took advantage of that with a two-run home run on way to a 5-0 win.
Second-year Oriole coach Shane Steinkamp talked to his team in between games and told them that it was one game.
“We’ll get this one out of the way early this year,” Steinkamp said with a laugh. “With a new team, you never know what to expect, and you’re playing a great softball team here.”
It didn’t help that the Orioles stranded several runners along the way. For game 2, though, the Orioles regrouped and put together a strong offensive show. Katy Nordman was 4-for-4 at the plate with a three-run homer and four runs scored to propel the Orioles to an 11-3 win and a split of the home doubleheader.
“Got the kids back into it, then we saw the team we know come out in game 2,” Steinkamp said.
In the opener, Augusta faced Mulvane pitcher Haley Hayes, who should be one of the tougher pitchers Augusta faces this season. She was able to get the Orioles to hit into grounders whenever Augusta had chances. In the bottom of the second, Casady Marlnee led off with a double, then Abby Tipton followed with a walk. They then advanced to third and second, respectively on a bunt out. But Hayes was able to get a strikeout and a foulout at first base to get out of the jam.
Tipton drew a walk to leadoff the fourth. Bre Burkett reached on a bunt single, then Lauren Fernz drew a walk to load the bases with no outs. But the Orioles popped up twice and hit into a fielder’s choice to end the scoring opportunity.
In game 2, the Orioles capitalized on those opportunities. Kylie Wesbrooks and Morgan Kirk reached base to start the third inning, and Nordman blasted her homer to give the Orioles a big lead. They didn’t look back.
“We’re not going to win a state title today, so we’re working to get better, and we definitely got better the second game,” Steinkamp said.
Nicole Becker made her first varsity start on the mound in the nightcap for the Orioles and made the most of the moment.
“I was nervous, but I knew that my team had my back,” Becker said. “We’ve been working all week on pitches and stuff, and even infield things. Yeah, it was hard at the beginning, but once we started clicking together, I felt comfortable.”
Becker, who just had her appendix taken out a couple weeks ago, has been looking forward to this moment. She said she had no more pain and was just ready to get to the mound. She was just supposed to pitch four or so innings, but she got through the first two innings with just 10 total pitches.
“It’s exciting. I wanted to play really bad, and Shane was saying how he was going to bring a freshman up, and I was like ‘No you’re not,’” Becker said with a smile.
She only needed to make 59 pitches the whole game, and 41 of them were strikes. Only one of Mulvane’s three runs were earned. Becker had one strikeout, allowed five hits and walked just one.
“That’s a gutsy performance from that kid,” Steinkamp said. “...She threw extremely well, mixed pitches up, changed speeds and played very well.”
Wesbrooks finished with a double, Kirk hit a single, Eberhardt had two doubles and a run, Tipton had a double, a single and a walk. Burkett scored
Fernz added a single, Carley Phillips had a single, a walk and a run. The team finished with 16 hits.
Augusta next plays its road opener at El Dorado Thursday, April 3.