Last year’s Northeast vs. Northwest softball games were, respectfully, messy.
In the directional rivals’ first meeting of 2023, though, that wasn’t the case; Northwest won 5-4 on Thursday. Neither team walked a batter, and there were just five errors between the two teams.
The errors, though, cost each side several runs. After a pair of singles got runners on in the bottom of the fifth inning, Northeast went on to take their first lead thanks to a pair of hit batters and a throwing error by the catcher.
They got those runs back right in the nick of time, though. Northwest’s Amiah Yancy led off the top of the seventh by being hit, then a pair of singles knotted the game at four. Sally Johnson laid down a sacrifice bunt, and instead of coming home with the ball, Northeast pitcher Amanda Torres threw to first, getting Northwest the 5-4 lead.
Northwest head coach Blake Lyons has emphasized to his team the importance of moving on from mistakes, much like they did on Thursday night.
“Last year, one mistake turned into two, (two) turned into four and just kind of spiraled and we didn’t have any way to stop it,” Lyons said. “This year, we’re doing a lot better job, and once the mistake happens, not letting another (mistake) happen. Just that attitude of ‘we’ve got to fix this right now.’”
Part of that is patience in some areas but aggression in others. Lyons wants his players to know that they’re not running against any clock – only outs – and that they don’t have to do everything all in one at bat. But he also wants them to put pressure on when they can, like on Thursday when Northeast’s Amanda Torres, who had been pitching all night, went to work in the seventh.
“Late in the game, that girl had pitched the whole game for them,” Lyons said. “So we wanted to make sure we didn’t let her off the hook. If we made a mistake or got an out, we didn’t want to make another quick out.”
It worked, with three of their eight hits coming in the frame.
Despite the loss, Northeast head coach William Warren has seen major improvement from his players – including on Thursday – as the Lady Eagles have started 2-1.
“Just tremendous growth from last year to this year,” he said. “(We’re) a lot more experienced. Last year, this game would have got way out of hand real early. However, this group is extremely disciplined. They fight. They care about each other. Even in a loss, I’m super proud of every single one of them. They did great.”
The starting lineup on Thursday was young, with freshmen getting the nod at catcher, third base and shortstop. There were multiple sophomores in the lineup, too. And with experience playing tight games, Warren thinks that his girls are going to pick up on how to win in those situations sooner than later.
“Not even a month or two,” Warren said. “I think in a week. As long as they maintain their discipline and their composure in the game, this team’s going to be a hard team to beat. We’re going to make some noise in our district and wake Clarksville-Montgomery County up this year. I have a feeling. They’re a really talented group of girls.”