Wolverines varsity softball wins big against Swain County and HendersonvillePublished 10:00am Thursday, May 8, 2014
After big wins against Swain County and Hendersonville, Polk County High School’s varsity softball team takes its 17-4 record into Thursday’s season final, at home against the Asheville Trailblazers.
With Tuesday’s win over the Bearcats, Polk also clinched second place in the Western Highlands Conference, with a 9-3 mark. A Polk win over Hendersonville would have guaranteed the Wolverines at least a tie for second, but conference-chamion Madison dispatched potential second-place finisher Mountain Heritage, and Polk owns the runner-up spot.
On Tuesday at Hendersonville, neither team scored in the first six innings. However, in the top of the seventh the Wolverines’ leadoff hitter, Ashley Kropp, reached base on an error. After one out, the selective Maddy Foy walked, as she so often has. Kassidy Reynolds coaxed another walk, and Polk had the bases full with just one down. Kailyn Brown, who had pinch run for Kropp, scored on Brandi Cordell’s hard single. Cordell hit the ball so hard that the bases remained full. In any case, Polk led, 1-0. Kinsley Jackson got the ball into the air and far enough, for a sacrifice fly that sent Foy home with run number two. With two down, Hayley Kropp singled home Reynolds, to end Polk’s and the game’s scoring.
Another story of the game, and the season, is the sustained excellence of freshman pitcher Ashley Scruggs. Against the Bearcats and in summer-like conditions, Scruggs pitched a complete-game shutout for her 17th win, against just four losses, and fanned 11 batters. She yielded just two hits, and walked none. It was very hot out there,” said Polk Coach Jeff Wilson, “but she (Scruggs) kept it up in 90-degree weather.” Wilson praised the Wolverines’ overall effort. “I thought the team showed a lot of concentration. We kept out focus during a tight ball game.”
Polk also recorded a 3-0 win on Monday, but the victory against Swain County took a different route, with Scruggs pitching out of a couple of jams, while getting great defensive support. Polk first struck in the home second. Leadoff hitter Ashley Kropp’s hit s routine grounder but sprinted to second on a bad throw to first. Foy’s intended sacrifice bunt was so well placed that she beat it out, with Kropp taking third. With Reynolds at the plate, Foy stole second. Reynolds singled to drive in Kropp, with Foy taking third. Cordell followed with a short bloop single behind third, loading the bases, as there was little or no chance for Foy to score. Hayley Kropp flied out to center, but Polk had scored all it needed.
Swain County put two runners on in the third, but a grounder back to the mound, and a pop out ended the threat. In the home third, Polk took command. Leadoff hitter Brittany Jones was safe at first on a grounder misplayed by the shortstop. Scruggs had hardly dug in at the plate when Jones sped to second on a wild pitch. Scruggs singled, but Jones, trying to score, was tagged out at home, Scruggs alertly taking second on the throw. Kassidy Reynolds’s hard single to left put runners on first and third. Alexis McCraw grounded to short, where a bobble prevented a play anywhere, loading the bases. That brought Maddy Foy to the plate. Foy slammed a hard single to left, scoring a run to make it 2-0, with the sack still full. With a new pitcher on the mound for Swain County, Wilson put the speedy Katlyn Allison on third to pinch run. That move paid of immediately, as Allison, described as “explosive,” raced home on a wild pitch, to give Polk a 3-0 lead.
Scruggs had to pitch out of another jam in the sixth. After she retired the first batter on a grounder to second, a walk, a hard single and another walk filled the bases with two outs. However, Alexis McCraw made an outstanding catch in center, hauling down a liner, to end the threat.
Scruggs and her defense retired Swain County one-two-three in the seventh, on a strikeout, pop up and groundout. “Our base-running was key today,” Wilson noted. “We did just enough to beat a good team. Of Scruggs, Wilson added, “She’s a competitor.” “We have a simple plan,” Wilson noted. “Pitch well, make routine plays and timely hits.” To say the least, that has paid big dividends for the Wolverines.