Owensboro struggled in their first game back since junior Ashleigh Howard’s injury on Monday, losing to Daviess County 18-0 but in better spirits with their teammate healthy and back in the dugout.
Daviess County got the first scoring threat of the game early, as freshman Callie Smith had runners in scoring position with two down in the top of the first. She was unable to make the Lady Devils pay, but they didn’t capitalize on a leadoff walk in the bottom half of the inning and the game went into the second tied at 0-0.
The Lady Panthers quickly caught steam though, as a leadoff triple from senior Kaydence Hamilton and a liner back up the middle by senior Kaitlyn Hill gave them a 1-0 lead. Daviess County made freshman Kirsten Tindle work for the remainder of the inning, making her throw a lot of pitches and eating some walks to load the bases.
Senior Jessie Daniels was the first to cash in on the opportunity, sending a line drive past short to take a 3-0 lead with two down. With runners on first and second freshman Annie Newman floated one to right to plate two more, before an infield single led to Kaydence coming back up for a bloop single to left and a 6-0 lead.
The Lady Panthers kept rolling too, getting a two-run double from Hill and an RBI double from sophomore Danielle Beckwith to make it a 9-0 ballgame. It was then that Tindle’s day in the circle came to an end—as she allowed nine earned runs on 10 hits—switching places with senior K’Asia Palmer at first.
Palmer was able to get a strikeout the following at-bat, but all momentum had swung Daviess County’s way. The Lady Panthers continued to roll, scoring nine more runs over the next two innings while freshman Sophia Cain closed the door in the fourth to wrap up a combined no-hitter with senior Raylee Roby and grab an 18-0 win to start 2023 district play.
Cain struck out two of the three batters she faced on the night, while Roby struck out four and allowed one walk in three innings. Raylee was a bit of a game-time decision after getting hit in the hand in their recent matchup with South Warren, but regardless she knew that she and Cain were more than able to get the job done in the circle.
“Monday I got hit pretty hard so I didn’t even know if I’d be here, but I knew that Sophia would be able to handle it,” Roby said. “But [really I was] just spinning the ball. Making sure I had spin on it and then I knew Sophia when she went in would do just as good.”
Head Coach John Biggs was proud of Roby and Cain on Thursday and has been proud of his newfound arsenal of pitching so far, with Raylee getting plenty of help early on in the season.
“They’ve been really good,” Bigss said. “Both of them have been really good for us all year and even our other two pitchers. I’ve been pleased with the pitching staff. I think it’s one of those things where they compliment each other, but when they’re on they can be really effective.”
Biggs was also proud of his team’s ability to spread the offense throughout the lineup, something that they’ve been working on making consistent early on—having had a few games with double-digit strikeouts at the plate. The Daviess County skipper said as a team that they’ve talked about ensuring that they don’t have empty at-bats and it showed as the Lady Panthers turned things around after a rough first inning with some quick adjustments to end the game with 18 hits and runs.
“Their pitcher did a nice job of keeping us off rhythm in the first inning,” Biggs said. “But like I said, throughout the year our kids have been able to make some really good adjustments. And when we were able to hit some balls harder there in that second inning and then good things started to happen for us.”
Daniels was a key contributor in the team’s offensive production, tallying three RBIs alongside freshman Annie Newman and senior Kaitlyn Hill, while Beckwith, Hamilton and senior Alexis Jackson had two RBIs each.
Jessie has been on fire to start the season, posting a .714 batting average with four home runs, 14 RBIs and just four strikeouts in the seven games prior to Thursday’s battle with Owensboro. Biggs said that she’s been locked in at the plate, trusting in her capabilities on offense and trying to not overthink things.
“I think sometimes hitters just get in that zone,” Biggs said. “Jessie trusts herself. I don’t think she’s one that goes up there guessing. She’s got fast hands and she can cover a lot of different quadrants. People have tried to throw changeups to her and she’s hit the ball well. She’s hit some balls hard to the opposite field the right way.”
Daniels also said that her improvement in plate discipline has been a big help to her strong start to the season, as it’s something she has tried to work on over the past year.
“Pitch selection definitely [has been key],” Daniels said. “I worked on that a lot last year. I struggled at the beginning of last year with pitch selection. During the off-season and the beginning of the season I’ve really honed in on pitch selection.”
Biggs also praised Daniels for her vocal leadership, helping her teammates out with little things throughout games. Jessie herself said that has been a big focus for the returning girls with varsity experience, looking to continue to set the standard in Daviess County softball for those getting their first runs with the team as well as making sure they see live pitching in practice to sharpen their skills at the plate.
“Before this year we had kind of been around each other for a long time,” Daniels said. “Then we had all those seniors graduate and now we have the younger girls. So I think creating that culture for them too and getting them used to how we do things, how we interact and all that stuff is what’s helping a lot too.”
Daviess County advances to 7-1 overall and 1-0 in district play, as Biggs noted that it was great to get their first first district win against an Owensboro team that he says has the potential to have a very nice season.
“I don’t care who you’re playing, to get that first one under the belt is nice,” Biggs said. “There’s always going to be a little nerves because you never know. They’re a much improved team. Each year they’ve made steps. In the last couple of years Quincy has been able to create a culture of expecting to win, but now they have the talent and the pieces in place that they can win some big games. That group is going to be much better at the end of the year.”
The Lady Devils fall to 1-5 and 0-1 in district play on the other hand, as Head Coach Quincy Moorman said his team is obviously still dealing with some emotions in their first game back after junior Ashleigh Howard’s injury on Monday.
“I think we were a little bit hungover from the other night,” Moorman said. “You know, a little emotionally drained. The girls wanted to play. We met the day after the incident and we practiced yesterday. It was rough. Practice was a little rough and emotional. Had some girls crying, to be expected. Obviously you open up back at home at the site of the incident playing a top tier team in the state and didn’t really know what to expect. I knew we were kind of going to be down, but I didn’t expect that happening.”
Howard was in attendance Thursday night, joining the team after suffering a small brain contusion in an outfield collision on Monday. Moorman was thankful for all of the prayers from the softball community, saying that her quick recovery was remarkable.
“It was very small at the hospital here,” Moorman said. “They sent her to Norton’s hospital in Louisville that night for observation and just precautionary measures. They did a couple more scans up there and then they did that third scan and there was nothing else there. It shocked all of us. It had to be the power of prayer. The softball community, everybody praying. That’s the only thing I can say. A higher power for sure. A brain bleed just totally went away in 12 hours. That’s unheard of.”
Both teams met in the circle for a team photo to show their support for Howard. The junior outfielder will be reevaluated in two weeks, but Moorman and company were happy to just get her back in the dugout and know that she’s ok.
“Ashleigh’s doing really well,” Moorman said. “She’s here. She’s still in some pain. Mouth and headaches and stuff, but she’s able to eat and keep food down. She’s wanting to get out of the house and that’s a good sign. And that’s what it’s about. It’s about her.”
As for now the Lady Devils have a short break, competing in their first game of the Florida Softball Beach Bash against Henry County at 9 a.m. on Sunday, April 2.