Augusta head softball coach Jamie VanDever had some big shoes to fill after taking over the program from Shane Steinkamp. The Augusta softball program has flourished in recent history, with state championships in 2014 and 2015. VanDever knows the program as well as anyone as he has coached the JV team for 14 seasons. VanDever has the Orioles at 6-0 this season after sweeping Circle, one of the best teams in the area.

Game one was a defensive battle, as the Orioles came out on top 1-0 at home in game one. Gracie Johnson had a dominant performance in the circle for the Orioles. Johnston allowed just one hit, while striking out 17 batters. Johnston also drove in the only run of the game.

Augusta opened up scoring in the second inning, when Johnston singled on a 1-0 count. The T-birds lone hit was a single by Taylor Lambert in the fourth inning.

Sydney Herbert took the loss for Circle. She went six innings, allowed only one run on six hits and struck out four.

Ryleigh McLallen went 2-for-3 at the plate to lead Augusta in hits.

“They battled. We knew that these games would be tough,” said VanDever.

“We knew how good Circle is. We thought it would probably come down to one or two runs. When you play good teams like that, you have to make the most of you opportunities. We were fortunate to get a run early, and Gracie (Johnston) was lights-out in the circle the rest of the way.”

Game two was another low-scoring battle, as the Orioles won 3-1 to remain undefeated.

Morgan Pennycuff earned the win for the Orioles, allowing three hits and giving up just one run. Pennycuff struck out nine T-Birds and walked zero. Londyn Bardin took the loss for Circle. Hardin surrendered three runs on four hits over six innings, while striking out six.

Augusta took the early on when Sophie Johnston doubled to score two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Both teams scored one run in the fifth inning.

Jadyn Jackson led the Orioles with two hits. Devin Ingrim, Hunter Dreifort, and Sydney Herbert each collected one hit for the Thunderbirds.

“You come away from a game like this and know it will make your team better, said Circle Coach Jean Gibbs.

Both teams will likely meet again in the 4A-I sub-state in El Dorado which will begin on May 15.

Augusta will host Wellington on Monday, April 9.

Circle is now 3-3 on the season., and will host Clearwater on Monday.