CONWAY — Not bad for the second time on a field, it was just shame that had to happen in a regular-season game against a quality opponent. That’s how Coach Peter Ames summed things up after the Kennett High softball team fell 8-3 to Merrimack Valley on the road in Concord on Friday.
While it was the season-opener for the girls from Conway, the Pride have been on their field for more than two weeks and have already played there games, going 3-0 to sit atop the Division II standings.
“They've played more games than days we’ve been on a field,” Ames said Sunday. “They’re a legitimate good club. They hit the ball pretty well one through seven in their lineup. We actually played OK, but were a little sporadic with the bats.”
MV pitcher Sadie Barton struck out 14 batters on the afternoon while scattering six hits and walking just two to pick up the win.
While Barton kept most of the Kennett hitters in check she did not have an answer for Sam Johnson. The talented senior third baseman belted two home runs over the fence and drove in all three runs for the Eagles.
“Sam had a great day, unfortunately, not a lot of other kids did,” Ames said. “She crushed the ball.”
After Izzy Wrobleski walked with one out in the top of the first inning, Johnson blasted a two-run homer to put the hometown flock in front 2-0.
It was a brief lead as the Pride answered in the bottom of the frame with three unearned runs. MV got runners to second and third with two outs and it looked like Kennett might escape without allowing a run but pop up in the infield was dropped allowing two runs to score. Barton helped her cause with a triple down the right-field line to give the Pride the lead for good.
“That error hurt,” Ames said. “If we could have shut them down and then came in and scored another run or two, who knows what happens.”
He added: “We didn’t do anything poorly. They would get a walk or a base hit and then get a blooper to score a run. They kept getting enough done to add a run on.”
Kennett scored its third run in the fifth when Johnson left the yard with her second round-tripper of the day.
Jess Noyes joined Johnson with two hits in the contest while Becca Schiller and Natalie Shaw joined the hit parade with singles.
Olivia Stewart went the distance on the mound for KHS, allowing seven hits, four walks while striking out six.
“We didn’t hit well enough which was the bottom line,” Ames said. “When you strike out 14 times that’s almost five innings where (Merrimack Valley) didn’t have to make a play. Other than not hitting, we did a number of things well. We hit the cutoff a few times. Izzy and Sam made some plays at short and third. Helen (Hill) and Caroline (Coleman) did a nice job at second.”
Ames believes the team will improve dramatically once it gets a few more innings on the diamond.
“I think we’ll be OK,” he said. “I think we have a chance to be pretty good. We’ve hit before and I’ve got to believe we will again. You can hit all you want off a machine in a gym but nothing beats seeing live pitching. Not being on a field, it doesn’t seem like we’re in softball mode yet. You drive 80 or 90 miles on a bus, and ‘Oh, there’s a green field.’ You’re there for 90 minutes and then drive back home where it’s still winter.”
Ames said the snow is finally starting to go on the field at Kennett. Two weeks ago the grounds crew at KHS put black sand on the ball fields.
Black sand, according to Wikipedia, “is a highly processed silica sand that is dyed with a turf safe dye. When applied over the top of snow and ice black sand radiates heat and increases the surface temperature which causes the snow and ice to melt.”
“It seems to be working pretty well,” Ames said. “That seems to have really helped. We have patches of bare ground in the outfield and a bit of the infield. We just need for it not to drop below freezing at night and a little sun wouldn’t hurt.”
Kennett was scheduled to host Coe-Brown Northwood Academy (2-0) in the home opener on Monday, but the game was postponed due to rain and snow. It is slated to be made up on Saturday, April 27 at 1 p.m.
KHS is scheduled to play two more games on the road this week with a trip to Wolfeboro on Wednesday to play rival Kingswood (0-1) on Wednesday (possibly at The Nick), and then close out the week on Friday with a trek to Amherst to play Souhegan (1-1). Both games at set for 4 p.m.