Circle pitcher Amanda Connell kept the Oriole hitters off-balance the first time through the lineup during the first game of Thursday's softball doubleheader in Towanda.
"She definitely was a different pitcher than we've seen before. She releases it a lot lower than most pitchers do, and she has an awkward spin on it," Augusta senior Katy Nordman said.
That was about the only time she was able to do so, though. Augusta's offense improved its timing the rest of game 1 and through most of game 2.
Casady Marlnee hit a two-run homer over the left-field fence to jump-start a four-run fourth inning. Abby Tipton was 3-for-4 in Game 1. Katy Nordman had a pair of hits. The offense finished with 11 of those. On the mound, Megan Hayes threw seven strikeouts and allowed just four hits. All of that added to a 10-1 victory.
"It was just our timing," coach Shane Steinkamp. "...[Connell] threw a lot of junk and off-speed stuff. But once we got our timing down, we put up some good numbers."
The offense kept going in game 2. Marlnee was 3-for-3 with two doubles, three RBIs and a walk. Brooke Eberhardt had two doubles and three RBIs. Kylie Wesbrooks had a triple and was 2-for-4 with three RBIs. Morgan Kirk added two doubles and an RBI. All of that added to a 12-2 victory to complete the sweep and improve the Orioles' record to 10-2 on the season.
Circle actually led after scoring a run in the opening inning of game 1. Connell shut down the Orioles' offense through three innings. But Marlnee's two-run bomb shifted momentum to the Orioles. They scored all 10 of their runs in a three-inning spurt.
Caley Brand hit a triple while Caylie Kifer, Krystal Mullin and Brooke Toedman all added singles for the Thunderbird offense. Circle had baserunners in scoring position a couple of times, but couldn't come up with timely hits.
The Orioles started game 2 much stronger than the opener. Kirk doubled, and Marlnee traded places with her to score the first run. Marlnee scored later for a 2-0 lead.
Circle got a base hit from Kifer and had runners on the corners with one out in the first, but Oriole pitcher Nicole Becker got a strikeout and a grounder to get out of the jam.
The Orioles hit a triple and three doubles in the second on way to a five-run inning, and they never looked back after that. Kirk nearly blasted a home run, but it was just inches from going over the fence. She said that the Orioles' team chemistry kept the team up when it struggled early on, and it stayed motivated to keep the offense rolling once it did get going.
"Even when it wasn't a home run, my teammates still came up behind me and hit me in, and we just kept rolling," Kirk said. "The team chemistry is a big thing."
Toedman rocked a triple to lead off Circle's second and later scored on an infield single by Brylee Thompson to get on the scoreboard at 7-1. Morgan Baughman drove in the T-birds' only other run in the third to score Kifer. The T-birds later loaded the bases with two outs, but couldn't push any more runs across.
Even though the game was pretty much already decided, the Orioles' defense made some eye-popping plays in the seventh. Circle's Caley Brand smacked a double and turned for third, but the Orioles' relay beat her there for an out.
"We work on cuts a lot during practice, and that's something Shane stresses all the time. If you can make plays like that, that's going to pump up your team," Nordman said. "...It's just really encouraging to know that we still want to work that hard to finish it that much faster."
Circle coach Jean Gibbs said the young T-birds, who have just one senior and two juniors, are going through some growing pains. They've had injuries to two pitchers, depleting their depth. She said the team is improving slowly but surely.
"The thing with Amanda is she is going to college to play in the field. She's not even going to pitch," Gibbs said. "She's doing it because she knows we need her to. She's allowing us to be in games. She threw way too many pitches tonight against a good hitting team."