Polk defeats Tuscola 8-3, now 3-0 in season

Published 10:37 pm Thursday, March 12, 2015


SPORTS PolkTuscola_DSC0444

By Mark Schmerling

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After Polk County crushed the visiting Asheville Trailblazers 15-0 in varsity softball on Wednesday, March 11, the Wolverines were 3-0 on the season with pitcher Ashley Scruggs picking up her third win as well.


Polk exploded for nine third-inning runs, adding three in the fourth, before the game ended on the fourth-inning, fifteen-run rule at Columbus.


The Wolverines’ lineup did massive damage in scant innings. Kassidy Reynolds, Hayley Kropp and Autumn Owen pounded two hits apiece, with Kropp adding a sacrifice fly, and Owen reaching base on a walk.


Kinsley Jackson (1-for1) doubled, as did Caitlin Britton (also 1-for-1). Karli Wood went 1-for-1 with a walk.


“We did a good job across the board,” coach Jeff Wilson observed. We made no errors. The defense played well.”


Before the March 9 game against visiting Tuscola High School, Wilson shared some thoughts with his team.


“I told them I wanted a good takeoff and a good finish,” Wilson related, likening it to a good airline flight.


The Wolverines (2-0 before Wednesday’s scheduled game against the Asheville Trailblazers) did just that, scoring four in the first, three in the sixth and a single run in the third, going on to defeat the Mountaineers, 8-3, in a non-conference game.


In the middle of Polk’s win were, among others, pitcher Ashley Scruggs who hurled a complete game, fanning six, and keeping visiting batters off stride with a mixture of heat and off-speed offerings; Hayley Kropp who lined three doubles and drove in three runs; Alexis McCraw, 2-for-4, 2 RBI; Ashley Kropp, 2-for-2, two walks and one RBI; Polk’s outfielders who caught anything near them that stayed in the park.


The Mountaineers belted two homers, to score all their runs. Freshman third-base tender Autumn Owen coolly snared a hard liner for the game’s final out.


Polk’s fielding was nearly impeccable. Tuscola’s first batter of the game lined a shot back at Scruggs, nicking her glove, before shortstop Hayley Kropp scooped up the offending sphere and gunned out the batter.


Two outs and no Tuscola base runners later, Polk came to bat and began scoring.


Haley Fowler lined a single to left, moved to second on a groundout, and stole third. Hayley Kropp drilled a double to center scoring Fowler. Ashley Kropp walked, putting Wolverines at first and second. Scruggs walked to fill the bases. Maranda Gosnell looped a single to right center pushing Hayley Kropp home. Alexis McCraw singled scoring Katelyn Allison who had run for Ashley Kropp.


All told, Polk scored four in that frame and remained in command.


In the home second, the Wolverines did not score but Hayley Kropp smacked her second double followed by Ashley Kropp’s second walk.


Tuscola’s third inning started off quietly, with Polk catcher Ashley Kropp pounding on a swinging bunt and tossing the runner out at first. However, the Mountaineers got a runner to third before the next batter got just under a pitch, but hit it well enough to just clear the fence in center.


Polk’s lead was now 4-2, but that hit ended Tuscola’s scoring for the moment.


Gosnell opened the home third with a ground single, followed by McCraw’s line single to right that put Polk runners on first and second. Maddy Foy’s bunt prompted a throw to third—late, with all runners safe. Bases were full for Fowler who grounded sharply. This time, the throw to third was on time, making out number two, but Gosnell scored putting the Wolverines up, 5-2.


In the visitors’ fourth, Tuscola’s Ashley Welch lined a ball, which appeared bound for the gap in right center. Instead, it cleared the fence, cutting Polk’s lead to 5-3. That was the Mountaineers’ last run, however, and the score remained 5-3 until the home sixth.


In the interim, alert play by Ashley Kropp behind the plate and the infield cut down a Tuscola runner who strayed too far off first.


Haley Fowler led off Polk’s sixth with an infield single. Autumn Owen then doubled over the left fielder’s head, putting Wolverines at second and third. Hayley Kropp then lined her third double of the afternoon scoring Fowler and Owen.


Ashley Kropp’s single scored sister Hayley, making it 8-3. Polk kept getting base runners but was unable to plate more runs. Two Wolverine runners were gunned down on close plays at the plate before a strikeout ended the home sixth.


In the Tuscola seventh, Scruggs pitched her way out of potential trouble. After fanning the leadoff batter, she yielded a line double. A fly out and a walk made it two outs and two on, but the next batter’s liner died in Owen’s glove at third, and the game was over.


“We swung the bat pretty well,” Wilson observed. “Autumn Owen delivered a big hit, her sixth-inning double. Hayley Kropp and Ashley Kropp hit the ball well. Ashley Scruggs controlled both sides of the plate. Defensively, the outfielders played well. What didn’t go over the fence was caught.”


Polk is scheduled to host conference rival Madison this afternoon with varsity play starting at 4 p.m. and JV at 5:30. Next Tuesday, March 17, the Wolverines visit Mountain Heritage and host Smokey Mountain on Wednesday.


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429: Polk’s gritty sophomore pitcher Ashley Scruggs has picked up where she left off last year, when she won 20 games for the Wolverines. On Monday Scruggs confounded visiting Tuscola with an assortment of fastballs and off-speed offerings, as Polk stopped the Mountaineers, 8-3. Scruggs went the distance, fanning six, and going 2-0 on the young season. (Photo by Mark Schmerling)


444: Hayley Kropp continued her assault on pitched balls, with a three-double, three RBI performance against visiting Tuscola on Monday. Here, Kropp is connecting on one of those two-baggers, all line drives. (Photo by Mark Schmerling)


455: With four runs in the first, three in the sixth, plus another score, Polk handily

defeated Tuscola, 8-3, in varsity softball on Monday. Here, the Wolverines’ Hayley Kropp is shown scoring Polk’s eighth run ahead of Ashley Kropp’s single.