Madison squeaks by Polk in varsity softball Tuesday

Published 8:09 am Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Polk County's Hayley Fowler (#6) has just crossed the plate on a sixth-inning double by Hayley Kropp, in Tuesday’s game between the Wolverines and Madison. Madison edged Polk, 2-1. (Photo by Mark Schmerling)

Polk County’s Hayley Fowler (#6) has just crossed the plate on a sixth-inning double by Hayley Kropp, in Tuesday’s game between the Wolverines and Madison. Madison edged Polk, 2-1. (Photo by Mark Schmerling)

Polk gets softball pitching gem, but mistakes prove costly

When Polk County’s ace pitcher Ashley Scruggs locked horns with Savannah Rice of Madison in a Tuesday’s contest between two of the area’s best varsity softball teams, it became evident that the team that made fewer mistakes would probably win.

The 2-1 score in Madison’s favor, was the product of, as Wolverine head coach Billy Alm observed, “a couple of plays” as is often the case in close games between two teams of near-equal stature.

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Polk dropped to 7-3 overall, and 3-2 in the Western Highlands Conference, both losses being to Madison and each by a single run.

After five and one-half innings at Columbus, Madison guarded a 2-0 lead, as each pitcher kept opposing batters largely off balance.

In the home sixth, Polk finally broke through. How many more runs they might have scored had it not been for a fine defensive play, might give Polk fans ulcers for weeks.

Madison scored once in the third, quietly changing the game’s balance.

A leadoff grounder drew no throw, and landed a Patriot runner on first. The next batter flied out to center. Shortly after, the runner stole second. Then, a dropped fly ball in short right center scored that runner. A pop out ended the threat.

Each team came up empty in the fourth.

In the top of the fifth, a misplayed fly to left center, and a misplay on an infield grounder, scored Madison’s second run, though the batter was tagged out at third after rounding the base too aggressively.

In the top of the sixth, Scruggs got Madison out one, two, three.

With one down in the home sixth, Haley Fowler singled. Hayley Kropp, doubled scoring the swift Fowler. Autumn Owen followed with a grounder to the pitcher, who appeared to throw her out. But, was Owen really out? The umpire ruled that the first-basewoman’s foot was off the bag, giving Owen the base, and Polk more life.

It looked even more like late-game Polk lightning when Maranda Gosnell blistered a bounder to third. Madison’s third-base tender made a fine pick, and had the presence of mind to step on the nearby bag, forcing Kropp. The fielder then gunned out the fast-running Gosnell at first. Suddenly the inning was over, seemingly almost as soon as it began.

A play that Alm had to digest occurred earlier in the game, when Gosnell was called out at first on a two-out grounder and the throw to first. Gosnell might have beaten the throw, if the fielder’s foot might have left the bag an instant too soon. In any case, Gosnell was called out, and when Polk players returned to defense, did they realize that they could no longer protest the call, as they’d left the field.

“It’s hard to make mistakes against a team like that,” Alm observed. “They’re going to capitalize on an error every time you make it.”

Scruggs, whose main part in the game was effectively mowing down batters, had to bear the loss.

“Scruggsy pitched a gem today,” Alm emphasized. “Our bats were quiet.”

He admitted that Wolverine batters must work on better responding to such pressure situations.

“The pressure’s on,” Alm continued. “We haven’t even played Owen yet.”

Going into the April 5 game against Avery County (the score of which was not reported before press time), Owen was 4-1 in WHC play.

How will the Wolverines react to the two close losses to Madison?

“I think they’re going to respond,” Alm predicted. “They’re too good not to.”

Polk will host West Henderson Thursday, with varsity action beginning at 4. On Friday, April 8, the Wolverines are scheduled to visit Mountain Heritage, but so might rain or snow. Next, the Wolverines visit Avery County on April 19.