Panther softball not short on offense in season-opening split with Red Raiders
Royal Valley’s season opener on the softball diamond wasn’t short on fireworks as the offense flowed in Wamego last Thursday in a doubleheader the Panthers would end up splitting with the Red Raiders.
The visitors from Hoyt wasted no time in getting the hit parade going as Sarah Beam delivered an RBI double after Jaycee Worrell drew a lead-off walk in the top of the first inning, signaling the start of a strong night for both of those players.
Beam was caught stealing third after that, but Kaylie Parker then delivered a single before Caitlin Burns drew a walk and Maggie Schuetz was hit by a pitch to load up the bases with two outs.
Masey Lafferty then drew another walk to bring in one run, while Burns scored on a wild pitch after that to put the Panthers ahead 3-0 before the completion of a full inning.
After pitcher Kaileigh Gray-Milligan retired the Red Raiders in order in the bottom half of the inning, RV went back to work in the second as Ali Bryan and Worrell had back-to-back singles to start it off.
Leslie Schuetz then connected for a two-RBI triple before Beam came through with a two-run homer to give the Panthers a 7-0 lead on the road against a solid Wamego squad.
That meant the Red Raiders weren’t likely to get flustered and, sure enough, after a scoreless third inning Wamego started to inch back in the game by getting one run on an error in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Royal Valley answered by loading up the bases after drawing three straight walks in the top of the fifth before Beam delivered another RBI double that cleared the bases and put the visitors up 10-1 with two and a half innings left to play.
“You go into the first game not really knowing what to expect, hoping for the best and the way that we came out in the first game was kind of what we were hoping for the first three or four innings,” RV coach Corey Katzer said.
From there, though, Wamego was able to stage a comeback as the home team delivered a seven-hit, eight-run barrage in the bottom of the fifth inning that was capped off by a grand slam to make it a 10-9 ball game, though Katzer took some of the blame for that in being slow to relieve Gray-Milligan in that lengthy inning.
After a solo home run in the sixth inning knotted things up at 10 runs apiece, Royal Valley delivered the knockout blow in the top of the seventh as an error allowed Bryan to reach base to start things off before Worrell followed with a single.
Following a pop out and Bryan being caught stealing, the Panthers were left to with one out to try and wrap things up in regulation. Beam kept it going with a walk and Parker followed with an RBI single that turned out to be the game winner.
“You could just tell when we would meet at the end of the innings that they were going to do whatever it took to get the win. That is a good sign for the rest of the season,” Katzer said. “They believe that they can win every ball game that they take the field and you can just see it in them.”
The game wasn’t without some final drama in Wamego’s last at-bat, though, as the Red Raiders got a lead-off single and the runner reached third with one out.
A passed ball after that could have sent the game to extra innings, but RV catcher Maggie Schuetz played the ball perfectly after doing some pregame work in reading the backstop, according to Katzer, and made the play at the plate with the help of relief pitcher Hannah Beam for the out that secured the Panthers’ first win of the season.
“It was up and down, but the main thing is that the girls came out with a win,” Katzer said.
P: RV- Gray-Milligan, H. Beam and M. Schuetz; Wam.- Stringfield, Failola, Suter and Cooper.
2B: RV- S. Beam (2); Wam.- Claussen and Cooper.
3B: RV- L. Schuetz.
HR: RV- S. Beam; Wam.- Claussen and Rogers.
SB: RV- Worrell (2); Wam.- Griffit and Taggert.
Once again, Royal Valley wasted no time getting on the scoreboard in the second game of the doubleheader as Worrell reached on an error in the top of the first and scored on another to stake the Panthers to an early 1-0 lead.
Wamego’s offense got going a little quicker in the second game, though, as an RBI single and a sacrifice fly by the Red Raiders gave the home team a 2-1 lead in the third inning.
The Panthers answered in the top of the fourth after Sarah Beam’s lead-off single, as Maggie Schuetz, Laffterty and Hannah Beam followed with three consecutive two-out singles to bring in two runs, putting Royal Valley ahead 3-2. Schuetz and Beam each collected an RBI off their hits.
As quick as RV got the lead back, that’s how quickly it slipped away again as the Red Raiders collected five runs on four hits in the bottom of the fourth inning thanks in part to a two-run home run.
Wamego’s 7-3 lead then held up the rest of the game as the teams’ hits were few and far between after that, allowing the Red Raiders to salvage a split with the Panthers.
The Red Raiders stuck with a strategy that worked late in the first game as the pitchers kept the ball outside and the Panthers struggled to adjust offensively, leading to the cold stretch late.
“We still have work to do, but they split with a really good hitting Wamego team and they should be proud of that,” Katzer said.
That series was a measuring stick for the Panthers (1-1) and Katzer said his team was ready to get back to work the next day to improve in preparation for an upcoming home doubleheader against Valley Falls starting at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.
P: RV- Beam, Gray-Milligan and M. Schuetz; Wam- Hildabrand and Cooper.
HR: Wam.- Cooper.