By Michael Rich
Maicy Kirk and Natalie Woogerd sparked a four-run first-inning rally and Brenna Oliver found her groove in the circle to lead visiting Olentangy Orange past district-rival Olentangy 5-4 in OCC-Capital softball action Friday in Lewis Center.
Kirk drove in the Pioneers’ first run on a ground-ball single to center.
Orange rallied with three hits and a walk in the inning, which included a two-run single by Woogerd. Cami Clarkson drove in the fourth run with a line drive single to left — the hardest hit ball of the inning.
Kirk had two hits to lead the Pioneers, who had eight hits overall by seven different hitters — all singles.
“Hitting in the three-hole, she’s got a lot of confidence at the plate … you can see it,” Pioneers coach Bruce Leary said. “She can get down two strikes and it doesn’t matter — she’s still swinging.”
Ashley Post singled in a run in the bottom half of the inning for Olentangy (5-6, 3-5) to cut the deficit to three.
Kirk came through defensively in the first inning when she fielded a ground ball at short and fired home to cut down a second run for Olentangy.
Alanya Kashak singled to open the third inning and scored what ended up being the winning run on a single by Ally Brandt to push the lead to 5-1.
Both pitchers settled in after. Oliver retired 11 batters in a row after the third inning on her way to a win for Orange (7-10, 4-6).
“Brenna was pitching real well,” Leary said. “I thought the fifth and sixth innings were real critical.”
Oliver, a freshman, credited her battery-mate, Alyssa Laisure, for her performance.
“I trust her as a catcher to call (a pitch) and I trust her framing, especially,” Oliver said. “I have a lot more confidence in myself as a pitcher.”
Olentangy’s Alyssa Boyd retired 13 of the final 14 batters she faced. Overall, she gave up five runs (three earned) on eight hits and two walks with a pair of strikeouts over the complete seven innings, but was saddled with the loss.
For the second straight day, Olentangy found itself down multiple runs heading into the final frame, and for the second straight day, Olentangy’s comeback-bid came up a run short.
“We left a lot on base — we just didn’t get the timely hitting,” Olentangy coach Alan Tharpe said. “As long as we keep that fight and keep that drive, we’re going (to be in) every game now.”
Sophie Low opened the seventh with a base hit. Oliver came back to get the next two outs.
But, Sydney Wagner doubled in Low and Post doubled in Wagner to cut the deficit to two runs. Kristen Bartel blooped a single to short right to score Wagner and chase Oliver.
Alex Nagy coaxed a pop out to second to earn the save for Orange.
“We hung on there at the end,” Leary said. “You gotta hand it to (Olentangy) for fighting back.”
Low and Post had two hits each to lead Olentangy.
Olentangy hosts Lyndhurst Brush in a doubleheader at noon today, while Orange is off until it hosts Mount Vernon in league play Monday at 5:15 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.