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Growth's the mantra for Hornet softball

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PLAY AT PLATE: Rossville’s Michelle Rodkey attempts to tag out a runner at the plate during Thursday’s game with Tri County, with the runner ruled safe.
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SAFELY HOME: Rossville’s Emma Lawson crosses home plate for a run in the second inning of the Hornet’s game with Tri County.
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GATHER UP: First-year Rossville head coach Chris Gorbett calls his defense in after they got out of a jam during Thursday’s game with Tri County.

BY ANDREW KRULL - akrull@ftimes.com

Growth as a team is the expectation for a young Rossville softball team after losing six seniors from last year’s 14-10 (5-2 Hoosier Heartland Conference) squad, with that inexperience on display Thursday in a 20-7 loss to Tri County after leading early in the game. 

“We’re going to see this all year,” first-year Rossville head coach Chris Gorbett said. “We’re going to see peaks and you’ll have mental mistakes.

“Those little things. If you give eight, nine, 10 outs in an inning, bad things are going to happen. That’s where we are going to grow.”

The Hornets led the Cavaliers, 7-2, after two innings on Thursday, with Rossville’s only senior Emma Baumgardt seeing time as a pitcher in those innings for the first time this season after dealing with an elbow injury.

“We’ve had a few girls that have been injured where we were only playing nine,” Gorbett said. “She’s starting to pitch now. … She’s on our (pitching) limitations right now.”

“She pitched two innings tonight. I have two freshmen and a sophomore that will pitch for us now, grow them and develop them for the future.”

Those three are sophomore Emma Lawson and freshmen Michelle Rodkey and Ashley Emens.

“I have a few freshman and one senior, some sophomores and juniors,” Gorbett said.

He noted that Baumgardt and Lawson saw significant time last year “and couple of them played innings here and there.”

In the first two innings, Rossville saw offensive contributions from several different players. Lawson, leading off, reached base with a hit and walk in the first two innings, scoring a run in the second. Freshman Alex Schaefer, who catches, scored after a walk in the first, with Rodkey (scoring two runs in the first two innings) singling afterward. Baumgardt brought them both home with a double and later scored herself, adding a single in the second and going 3-3 for the day.

Lindsay Roberts led off the second with a single and Stormi Borders reached on an error, scoring two runs in the Hornets’ four-run second inning.

“Everybody hit,” Gorbett said. “We had all 10 girls. We had 10 hits today. They are growing and that’s all we can ask for. Everybody on this team placed the ball in play tonight.

“Emma (Baumgardt) obviously as our senior will lead by example. We have Reagan Younker (a junior) who is starting to come around, getting her feet wet and gaining experience and gaining confidence. Right now, we are gaining confidence and moving forward.”

Younker singled in the fourth inning of Thursday’s game.

Lawson relieved Baumgardt in the third of Thursday’s game, with the Cavaliers scoring six runs to take an 8-7 run. Much of Tri County’s runs came about from walks and errors with only two hits and only one hard hit ball (a double by Chloe Auxier).

Tri County increased the lead to 18-7 in the fourth, with Rodkey entering in relief midway through the inning. They added two in the fifth with the 10-run rule taking effect in the bottom half of the inning.

Gorbett, who graduated from Rossville in 1997, understands this season will have its challenges as the Hornets have started 0-4 to start the season, but believes the commitment to the Hornets young players with three freshmen and four sophomores getting varsity experience will pay dividends as the season progresses and in the future. He provided encouragement to his young squad, gathering them as a team after innings and providing Rodkey a pep talk after she worked out of a jam and held the Cavaliers to the two runs in the fifth. 

“I have a lot of girls that were on the varsity roster, but they never really played varsity softball,” he said. “We’re going to grow and develop. They have desire and commitment to improve and that’s what we’re here to do. … We’re looking forward to some of the freshmen to step up and fill the positions that we lost last year from our six seniors.

“Every day we step on this field is something different. We’re playing inning by inning and out by out. The scoreboard will take care of itself if we take care of the small things and win an inning (at a time).

“We’re going to have a roller coaster year,” he added. “We’re going to have the games where we are up five, six runs and we’re going to be down by one in a short amount of time. We’re young and we’re growing.

“It’s desire and commitment that’s what we are after. I have girls that will stay an hour after practice to hit and pitch and throw.”