If you can only score in one inning, make that inning a big one.
Liberty managed just three runs in the third inning, but it was more than enough as the Patriots held Hilliard Davidson to four hits and defeated the visiting Wildcats 3-1 in Ohio Capital Conference Central Division softball action Monday at Liberty High School.
Liberty (13-4, 9-1 OCC Central) had only six hits on the night, but had four in the third plus a key sacrifice bunt, while Hilliard Davidson (12-10, 5-6) had trouble getting much of anything off junior right-handed pitcher Kristen Adkins.
“It was nice to get a few of those hits in a row and a couple of them back-to-back,” Liberty coach Bob Lee said. “I told the girls afterward we weren’t very selective at the plate when we were up in the count, and they were swinging at balls they didn’t necessarily have to swing at, but we got a big bunt down and strung some hits together in the third.”
Still, the visitors kept themselves in the hunt all game long with a solid defensive effort. Davidson had just one error that didn’t figure in the scoring, but made diving stops and spectacular plays with the glove on low throws to stop Liberty from getting any more.
“Give credit to Hilliard Davidson, they made some great plays,” Lee said. “We had numerous line drives they ran down, they made some great diving stabs on hard-hit balls and made the routine plays when they needed to. They played very well defensively.”
Adkins, though, was the standout, allowing just an unearned run, four hits and one walk while striking out 11 Wildcat batters, throwing 62 strikes out of her 89 total pitches.
“The big thing Kristen is doing this year is limiting her walks,” Lee said. “She’s walking about two batters a game on average, and that’s a big improvement. That in itself keeps a lot of pressure off our defense. We told her this year her goal was a 3 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio, but we’ll take 11 to 1 any day.”
Liberty, meanwhile, played a solid game on the defensive end as well, despite a pair of errors. The Patriot infield was ready for every Davidson bunt attempt, sophomore second baseman Randi Noday made a diving catch on a line drive in the seventh inning, and junior catcher Bailey Ankrim played flawlessly behind the dish with 12 putouts, including catching a popped-up bunt in foul ground in the second inning.
“It was a well-pitched game and a well-caught game,” Lee said. “People often take Bailey for granted, but Kristen throws off-speed balls in the dirt, which she is supposed to do, and Bailey keeps them in front of her and doesn’t let runners get on base or advance.”
Liberty had runners on in each of the first five innings, stranding runners at first with less than two out in the first two frames, but in the third, the Patriots’ luck changed.
Sophomore left fielder Keri Kelly topped a ground ball toward the pitching circle, but beat Davidson pitcher Erica Buchanan’s throw to first. Ankrim then dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move her to second, and Noday reached on a single.
Junior Meredith Bates came in to courtesy run and, after a sharp liner was caught for the second out of the inning, Adkins drove the fourth pitch she saw to the base of the wall in right center field for a triple, scoring both Kelly and Bates. Sophomore third baseman Tiffany Hart then grounded a single up the middle to score Adkins.
Hilliard Davidson got one run back in the top of the fourth on two hits, an error and a one-out RBI ground ball by Charlee Clark, but stranded another runner at third.
Noday and Hart each had two singles for the Patriots, Hart driving in one run. Adkins added her two-run triple and Kelly her single.