Holton softball can't slow down red-hot Royal Valley
If Monday’s doubleheader between the Holton and Royal Valley softball teams was a little bit anticlimactic, it may have had a little bit to do with timing.
With the Wildcats playing just their fourth series of the season in only their second week of competition, you could say the Panthers had a good bit of a head start on their league rivals.
Still, in a key battle in the league championship race, Royal Valley’s offense could not be slowed down as the team piled up the runs in a pair of 16-4 and 10-1 victories to earn the series sweep.
“I was very pleased with the effort and the focus that the kids came out with,” RV coach Corey Katzer said. “I knew they were excited to get out and compete against Holton. We had talked about maybe the focus not being there, the emotion not being there the first game against Valley Falls, but that was not a problem Monday night.”
The Panthers wasted no time asserting themselves on offense, either, as RV raced off to 7-0 lead through three innings of the opening game in the doubleheader. That allowed the visitors to be the aggressors throughout the night and never look back.
Sarah Beam has been the straw that stirs the drink for the RV offense and she struck the opening blow for Royal Valley with a two-run homer in the first inning and the visitors did not let off the gas.
“To be only a sophomore and put up the numbers that she’s currently putting up, it’s exciting to see not only what she’s done up to this point, but what she’s going to do the rest of the year and then the final two years of her high school career,” Katzer said.
Starting pitcher Kaileigh Gray-Milligan helped herself out with an RBI single in the second inning and Leslie Schuetz came through with a two-RBI double to put the Panthers ahead 5-0.
After Kaylie Parker drew a leadoff walk and Caitlin Burns singled to start the third inning, Masey Lafferty continued her strong run by driving a double into right field to score those two runs and give RV a 7-0 advantage.
Holton got two runners on in the bottom of the third following a leadoff walk drawn by Taryn Weilert and a single from Ashlyn Weilert in the following at bat, but only one run would came in to score on Ali Morris’s RBI groundout before the third out of the inning was recorded.
“We didn’t hit it well and they hit it well,” HHS coach John Deitrich said. “At times we defended it okay and at times we pitched it okay, but it was just a pretty average night for us Monday night.”
Royal Valley then continued to add to its lead as Leslie Schuetz singled to set-up Sarah Beam’s RBI double. Burns then drove in Beam with an RBI single and she herself then scored on an RBI single from Maggie Schuetz in the following at-bat.
Lafferty delivered another RBI double after that and Gray-Milligan had an RBI single to cap off the scoring and put the Panthers ahead 12-1 in the fourth inning.
The Wildcats answered in the bottom half of the inning as Quinn Holaday got things started with a leadoff single. Paige DeLay then singled with one out to set up Brianna Boyett for an RBI single. An error on the play also allowed DeLay to score.
Taryn Weilert then came through with an RBI single and while Mackenzie Moore and Morris had back-to-back singles after her to load the bases, the Wildcats left them that way and the Panthers maintained the upper hand.
Royal Valley then put the game away for good in the fifth inning as Beam slapped a leadoff single and Burns followed her on base in similar fashion. Maggie Schuetz then walked to load-up the bases, setting up Lafferty for a two-RBI single. Gray-Milligan followed with her own RBI single before an error brought in the final run for the Panthers.
Gray-Milligan then retired Holton in order in the bottom half of the inning to lock up the 16-4 run-rule victory for Royal Valley.
P: HHS- Holaday and VanAusdall; RV- Gray-Milligan and M. Schuetz.
2B: RV- Worrell, L. Schuetz, Beam and Lafferty (2).
HR: RV- S. Beam.
SB: RV- Burns (2) and Keehn.
For the second game of the night, things looked a little more evenly matched in the beginning and the Wildcats actually jumped out to an early lead thanks to an RBI single from Morris in the first inning.
Royal Valley quickly tied things up in the second inning, though, as Panther pitchers continued to generate their own run support. This time, Hannah Beam connected for an RBI double to tie the game up at 1-1.
It wouldn’t take long for the Panthers to find their offensive groove again and after Beam retired the Wildcats in order in the third inning, the RV offense went to work by getting back into its routine.
“That’s what we got back to was doing what we do at the plate; being patient, seeing pitches, getting a read on those sorts of things,” Katzer said. “That’s the one thing that I thought really allowed us to get back to putting runs on the board.”
Burns reached on an error to start the fourth inning before Maggie Schuetz lifted an RBI double into center field. Lafferty then drew a walk before Hannah Beam delivered another RBI hit that brought in two runs.
After two quick outs, Leslie Schuetz and Sarah Beam came through with back-to-back RBI doubles to give the Panthers a 6-1 lead that the team would not relinquish.
Holton went down quickly after that and Burns started the Panthers off again with a single in the top off the fifth before déjà vu set in and Maggie Schuetz drove another ball to center field for her second RBI double of the game.
Three batters later, Ali Bryan slapped an RBI groundout before Jaycee Worrell had an RBI infield single to put Royal Valley ahead 9-1. Maggie Schuetz RBI groundout in the sixth inning then gave the Panthers one final insurance run.
While the Wildcats got a runner on in each of the final two innings, including a leadoff double from Moore in the sixth, the team couldn’t make anything out of it and fell to the Panthers by a 10-1 margin as Royal Valley closed out the sweep with a complete team effort.
“You don’t go up against a well-coached team like Holton and expect to put 26 runs on the board and you don’t do so with nine or 10 individuals playing individual ball. You only do that by having a strong team concept,” Katzer noted. “That’s what this group has and that’s what’s fun about coaching them.”
It’s likely these two teams could meet again in postseason play and while these games will have little influence on a potential future match-up, Katzer noted it was a good measuring stick against a quality opponent, though the Panthers still have work to do.
Royal Valley (11-1) will now get set to take on Hiawatha at home in a doubleheader starting at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Holton (5-3) will prepare for tournament action at the Shawnee softball fest, which will start at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday. That tournament will hold more tough competition and how the Wildcats handle Monday’s losses moving forward will be key.
“You think about it, we could come out of the weekend and we could really be in a bad way if we don’t play well. We have to bounce back, so we’re going to practice today on working to try to get better and hopefully we do,” Deitrich said.
P: HHS- Bond and VanAusdall; RV- H. Beam and M. Schuetz.
2B: HHS- Moore; RV- L. Schuetz, S. Beam (3), H. Beam and M. Schuetz (2).
3B: RV- Burns.
SB: HHS- T. Weilert and Poras; RV- H. Beam, Lafferty (2) and M. Schuetz.