Andover softball suffers first lost in split to Valley Center

Lionel Tipton

ANDOVER – After being held to just four hits in a 2-1 loss in Friday’s opener at Andover, Valley Center was probably as mad as, well, Hornets.

Valley Center took out its frustrations in the second game, scoring in each of the six innings and handing the Trojans their first loss of the season with a 14-3 pounding.

The sophomore-heavy Hornets (9-5) used a 15-hit attack to run-rule the Trojans (11-1) and got home runs by sophomore Maci George in each game. Fellow sophomore Lucy Hooper went 5 for 8 in the twin bill with two RBI.

Andover coach Amisha Daniels said there’s no shame in losing to Valley Center.

“They’re definitely a very good team, and they’re going to give a lot of teams in our league really good games,” she said. 

Hornets coach Corey Jones was justifiably pleased afterward.

“We played pretty well, and the first game was a heck of a game, 2-1,” Jones said. “We’ve played some dang good ballgames. But it was nice to get the win.”

He seemed to think that what Valley Center did in the first game against Eubank might have tempered her effectiveness when she entered in relief in Game Two.

“We had some at-bats where we had nine, 10 pitches in the first game, and she pitched a lot of pitches that first game,” he said. “That’s key for a girl who’s going to pitch in both games of a doubleheader. We made her throw a lot of pitches, and that helped us for the second game.”

The nightcap presented some uncharted territory for the Trojans, who, after going error-free in the opener, committed five in the nightcap – two in a five-run third. 

“No matter who you are, errors just kill you,” Jones said. “It was kind of nice to score on some errors.”

The games were hardly an offensive showcase for Andover, which made the most of six hits in the opener but could only muster four hits off Valley Center’s Sykora Smith – yep, another sophomore – in Game 2.

“We hit better in the first game, but we struggled to string together the hits we normally string together,” Daniels said. 

In the opener, Trojans senior Tess Eubank pitched seven strong innings and held Valley Center in check, giving up just the solo homer to George, a single and a double to Hooper and a double to junior Cheyenne Blackwood. Eubank walked three and struck out 10, including striking out the side in the second. 

“Ultimately, Tess did really well the first game,” Daniels said. “She didn’t have as much movement as she typically does, and that’s OK. Everybody has an off night. 

“We had to rely on our bullpen quite a bit the second game. She still came in (and) threw some good innings for us.”

Valley Center pitcher probably could have used some of the second-game scoring in the opener. Other than giving up two runs to Andover in the second, sophomore Tori Turner pitched a strong game. In that inning, junior Tressa Porter reached on an infield single, senior Millie Pryor walked, and junior Bailey Way – who opened the game being hit by a pitch on the helmet and gave Andover fans a scare when she was hurt sliding into second base on a steal, but remained in the game – singled and drove in Porter. Pryor then scored on freshman Alyssa Evans’ groundout. 

Daniels said Way’s first-inning injury had an effect on the games.

“That definitely shifted the momentum a little bit for us offensively,” she said. “When somebody is producing like she’s producing, and you go into a game where you need every one of your key members producing, it definitely had an impact on us, both games.”

Despite the Trojans loading the bases in the first inning, Turner worked out of it. She was relieved by freshman Alyssa Crumbliss in the fourth, who worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth. 

In the second game, Andover gave up three runs in the top of the first to Valley Center on George’s second home run of the day, a three-run shot. 

But the Trojans answered in the bottom of the inning with a three-run homer of their own, by cleanup hitter and starting pitcher Kylie Forney. But a Kate Ralston double in the second and an Evans single in the third were the only other hits Smith allowed as Andover’s only three baserunners the rest of the way came on walks. 

For Valley Center, outfielder Mykah Klumpp (a sophomore, naturally) drove in three runs in the second game, as did George. 

Andover’s path doesn’t get any easier, as its next games will be Wednesday at Goddard Eisenhower.

The Trojans’ unbeaten streak has garnered some attention, and they deserve the praise, Jones said.

“They’ve beaten some dang good teams,” he said. “They’ve beaten Andale; they’ve beaten Maize; Andover Central. They were on fire, so we knew that we’d have to come in and play our best, and we played pretty doggone good.”

Daniels said she almost wishes Wednesday’s games were sooner.

“We’ve got kids coming out (Saturday and Sunday),” she said. “They want to get the work in. Not playing for a week definitely sets the tone of practice differently. They approached (Friday) just like any other day, but I don’t think they were ready to see this kind of competition just yet. 

“You never want to get the loss, but we learned a lot of things (Friday). It helps us to make sure that they get those things cleaned up.

“The most important thing is (for) our upperclassmen to lead these kids and show them how to recover from a situation like this. Our youth showed (Friday), but this is a really important environment to be in and experience.”

Andover 2, Valley Center 1

Valley Center;000 001 0 – 1 4 2

Andover;020 000 x – 2 5 0

W – Eubank. L – Turner. HR – VC, George.

Valley Center 14, Andover 3 (6)

Valley Center;214 133 – 14

Andover;300 000 – 3

W – Smith. L – Forney. HR – VC, George.

Charles Chaney has been the Sports Editor for the Butler County Times-Gazette since Aug. 2019. You can reach him at cchaney@butlercountytimesgazette.com or on Twitter at @ChuckChaneyBCTG.