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Bulldogs drop two at own tournament

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BY A STEP: Clinton Central’s Kallie Mennen takes a throw at first to beat Eastern’s Deanna Ayers to the bag in Saturday’s consolation game of the Clinton Central Invite.
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SHE’S OUT: Clinton Central freshman pitcher Haley Perkins holds a tag on Eastern’s Lileigh Horner in the third inning as she crosses home plate in the consolation game of Saturday’s Clinton Central Invite. Eastern won the game, 8-0.
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GETTING A LEAD: Clinton Central’s Kaylea Whitcomb, left, looks to the plate after getting a lead after the pitch during Saturday’s game against Eastern.
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FROSH FLINGER: Clinton Central’s Autumn Bower pitched in relief on Saturday against Eastern in the consolation game of the Clinton Central Invite. She gave up four runs (two earned) in 4.2 innings of relief during the 8-0 loss.

BY ANDREW KRULL - akrull@ftimes.com

Clinton Central lost two games during their own softball invitational on Saturday, but head coach Ed Cripe remains high on his team and freshmen pitchers.

The consolation game, an 8-0 loss to Eastern, brought some concerns with the defense, causing the Bulldogs to make adjustments in that regard. Central lost to Seeger in the opening round. 

“Our first game we started out pretty strong defensively, coming into our second game we kind of struggled a little bit,” Cripe said. “Pop flies that should have been caught were not caught.

“All in all, our hitting in the first game was pretty good and fell off a little in the second game. I know (Kaylea) Whitcomb had some pretty good hits. (Kallie) Mennen had some pretty good hits.”

Freshman Haley Perkins started against Eastern, giving up a run in the first inning on back-to-back doubles by Emily Belt and Hope Smith.

Central had a chance to get on the board in the bottom half of the inning, as Ella Buzan led off with a walk and was sacrificed over by Baileigh Arnold. Cassidi Jenkins reached first on a misplayed fly to right and stole second. The Bulldogs weren’t able to move the two runners in scoring position over with one out though, leaving the score at 1-0.

Eastern gained some cushion in the top of the third as Perkins walked the first two batters. It looked like the damage might be minimized when the Bulldogs got the first out of the inning as Perkins tagged Eastern’s Lileigh Horner out at the plate as she tried to take home after a pitch went to the backstop. The Comets’ Deanna Ayres followed that up with a double, however, scoring Alayna Ayers. Emily Belt then hit a single to score Ayres, taking second on a throw home.

Freshman Autumn Bower relieved Perkins at that point, giving up a single to shallow right to allow another run to score before retiring the last two batters of the inning. Buzan made a nice catch down low on a liner for the first one. She had moved from her usual second base during the game to shore up the outfield.

“We did make some defensive adjustments too,” Cripe said. “We moved Ella from second base out to the outfield. She made a couple of good catches. … Fly ball-wise we were letting balls drop in front of us, so we had to make an adjustment to get somebody out their with a little bit of speed.

“That kind of hurt a lot (shallow pop-ups in the outfield not being caught). We tried to let the girls know, play in until you get beat and then make the adjustment. Sometimes, they struggle with that.”

Whitcomb opened with a walk in bottom half of the third and was sacrificed over by Arnold with the second out, but was stranded at second.

Bower struck out Eastern’s first two batters in the fourth, getting out of the inning without issue. She ran into problems in the fifth when Ayers reached on a floater over first base that hit right at the foul line and moved to second on a ball that went to the backstop. Two batters later Ayers came home on another fly to short right by Smith that the outfield couldn’t reach.

Jenkins then made a stop and throw on a hot shot to third, one of about four nice plays by her.

“Cassi is pretty solid at third base,” Cripe said.

Another fly to shallow right scored a second run and an errant throw from the infield to first brought in two more runs, making it 8-0, before Bower struck out Ayers to end the fifth inning.

Bower reached to lead off the bottom half of the inning when the right fielder couldn’t handle a fly ball. Whitcomb singled to right giving the Bulldogs runners at first and second with one out, but any rally was cut off when a courtesy runner at second was doubled up after a fly out to right.

Bower allowed only a lead-off single in the seventh the rest of the way, striking out the final three batters in the inning. However, Central could only muster a sixth inning single by Jenkins the rest of the way.

“I’m still very positive about the season coming up,” Cripe said. “It’s our fourth game so we’ll come around.”

The Bulldogs (0-4) almost broke through for a win at Delphi (3-1) on Thursday, leading 4-3 before the Oracles scored two in the fifth for a 5-4 win. Jenkins had a double in that one for an RBI and scored two runs, while Jasmine Gomez, Buzan, Perkins, Bower, Mennen and Macy Ostler also had hits. Buzan had an RBI, with Gomez and Mennen scoring Central’s other runs. The Bulldogs outhit the Oracles and had two errors to Delphi’s five in the game.

Cripe believes his young hurlers will keep Central in games and get stronger as the season progresses.

“I’m still impressed with our freshmen pitchers,” he said. “Of course, both of them play travel ball so this is not exactly new to them but the high school aspect is new to them and they played well and did well.

“Autumn Bower, she’s got a little bit of speed but she’s got a lot of movement and that helps out a lot, and Perkins, her ball’s got a lot of movement and she’s got more speed. It’s just a matter of them being freshmen and they’ve just got to hit their spots and sometimes they struggle with that.”

Western (a 22-11 winner over Eastern) ended up winning the tournament, beating Seeger, 8-4, in the championship.

Central next plays North White on Saturday in the first round of the Clinton Prairie Classic, with other county teams in host Prairie and Frankfort also playing in the tournament.