RALEIGH — Athens Drive’s softball team has had no trouble hitting the ball this year. Even without returning leading hitter Hannah Reynolds, a junior who tore her ACL before the season, the Jaguars are averaging 5.6 runs per game and haven’t been held under two in any single contest.
The wins haven’t come as often as the Jags would have wished, but encouraging signs were there Thursday in the team’s final game before spring break.
Athens Drive belted out 11 hits, including its first two home runs of the season, against Panther Creek in a 9-2 home victory. But even more importantly, everything else was there for the Jaguars (3-6, 2-6).
“We have shown we can pretty much compete with anyone,” said Athens coach Breanna Tapp. “It’s a matter of if we can show up for seven solid innings, offensively and defensively. I definitely look forward to the second half of the season.”
Highlight reel: Tanya Van Dyk had four RBIs, including a two-run homer over the left-center wall in the 3rd inning. Catcher Olivia Barratta had a two-run home run in the first, with her low line drive clearing the right field wall.
“I tried to be patient,” Van Dyk said. “(Panther Creek starting pitcher Madison Tobin) was definitely throwing really, really well. She had a lot of strikes that were very pretty.”
Athens first baseman Taylor Cesarski made some snags at first base to help record crucial outs.
Putting up numbers: Seven Jags had hits, with Keely Haggar, Gabby Respress, Van Dyk and Barratta each getting two apiece.
Haggar, Respress and Sarena Triesh had one RBI apiece. Van Dyk’s other RBIs came on a double and sacrifice fly.
PC’s two runs were driven in by Madison Thompson and Haley Signorelli.
What worked: On this day, it was the Jags’ pitching and defense that stepped up. After the Catamounts scored two in the first, they were shut out the rest of the way.
Getting the win was senior Jenny Nance, who who allowed five hits – but only two after the first inning. Van Dyk, a Methodist recruit, came in the last three innings and struck out five.
“That’s what we’ve been doing the whole year,” Van Dyk said. “Our pitching styles are so different. It just throws off the batters completely and they have to completely re-adjust.
Few softball teams ever sub out pitchers, but Athens has gone to it to help cope with the loss of Reynolds by rotating Van Dyk and Nance.
“It works really well,” Tapp said.
Looking ahead: In the first full season under coach Bryan Cromer, the Catamounts (1-7, 1-7) are still acclimating themselves to the new expectations and looking at games as ways to show improvement. In this game, he was please with how often his team put the ball in play.
“They’re having a lot of fun. It’s kind of a rebuilding year,” Cromer said. “Just getting them into the swing of my mentality of things has been a challenge, but we’re starting to turn it around – regardless of what the scoreboard says.”
Out of bounds: PC might be the statewide leader in Madisons. They have just 13 players on the roster, but three starters have the same first name: Madison Thompson, Madison Parker and Madison Tobin.
Blake: 919-460-2606; On Twitter: @JMBpreps