When Millbrook lost to Heritage two days ago, coach Josh Bunting wanted his Wildcats to emphasize offense.
So they did.
They bunt, they hit and they asserted their position in the Cap-8 Conference after an 18-7 mercy rule-shortened win over the Pride Friday.
Millbrook collected 14 hits and was productive from top to bottom. Every Wildcats starter contributed a hit or got on base, while they didn’t score against Heritage and produced just two hits.
“(After the Heritage game), we told them we needed to focus on hitting, and they did,” Bunting said. “They got a lot of hits and they just focused today. They got after it, and I was really impressed. Seeing that, that just helps a lot when girls at the bottom of the lineup are ... able to manufacture hits and get some runs for us.”
Millbrook leadoff Adrienne Valero and No. 6 hitter Hannah Janicki finished 3-for-3 at the plate. Valero led the game with three RBIs. She sent an 0-2 pitch to left field for her first hit, which was a double to start Millbrook’s irreparable damage.
Valero said the rest of the lineup fed off the production from the top, as she and fellow lefty, No. 2 batter Katie Thomas, each scored three runs.
“It guess it’s just a chain reaction, honestly,” Valero said. “It just gives up confidence, especially for the younger girls who haven’t had much experience. It lets them know that they can compete with us and with other teams.”
Leesville Road didn’t have much trouble putting the ball into play. The Pride finished with 15 hits, including eight in a fifth-inning burst where they produced all seven runs. Freshman Hannah Woody, who started the rally with a home run – her first career hit, was in scoring position when Millbrook threw out a final runner in the top of the fifth to avoid an additional inning.
Leesville cleanup Rebecca Jones belted a two-run homer over the fence, while leadoff Emma Zagardo and Vickie Finger recorded extra-base hits in Leesville’s final push.
“We’ve been in situations where we’ve been behind, but any game that we’ve won, we’ve never been behind,” Leesville coach Bryan James said. “As a team, we’ve got to learn to fight to get out of those. Any game we’ve won, we’ve always been in the lead the whole game.”
Millbrook scored six runs in the bottom of the first, which seemed like a reasonable deficit. But when it tacked on another six the following inning, the Wildcats put the game out of reach.
Three to know
A.J. Valero, Millbrook: She delivered at each plate appearance, including lining one to short that fell out of the infielder’s glove. The play drove in two runs in the first inning.
Emily Burris, Millbrook: The cleanup kept the plate production flowing but was equally as valuable behind home. She threw out a runner at third in the top of the second, ending the inning. She was in the middle of a double play in the third, and she tagged out a runner heading home in the fourth.
Burris attributed it to “just speed. Get the ball, get it done quick so we can make the play and move on,” she said.
Sidney Green, Leesville Road: The second baseman caught two fly outs and tagged a runner out. She sucked up a ground ball and tossed it to first baseman Anna Marshall in the second inning for the final out of the second inning. She assisted on four total outs. She also drew a walk at the plate and scored a run.
By the numbers
8: Hit in Leesville’s final inning
3: Hits by Pride leaders Zagardo and Rose Sande
9: Millbrook RBIs
117: Pitches thrown by Pride starter Jones. She opened her outing with 41.
2: Leesville base runners in the first inning, though Millbrook’s defense and pitching ended it quickly
1st: Start by Millbrook freshman Rylee Thomas. She didn’t allow any hits in the second inning. “She’s not thrown a complete game at all this season,” Bunting said. “For her to be able to do that and have that mental stamina and physical endurance to do that today, that impressed me a lot.”
Jessika Morgan: 919-829-4538, @JessikaMorgan