Wauseon kept its hot start to the 2017 season Friday with a 3-0 home shutout of Evergreen in NWOAL softball action.
“Solid defense tonight,” said Indians’ head coach Jen Croninger. “We’ve really worked hard and stressed in practice that we can’t be anything but walls. So, the girls came out and did what they needed to on that side.
“Offense, we just gotta keep swinging. Our bats are hot right now and we’re gonna find gaps eventually. I just tell the girls to make sure that they are relaxed and just loose. And that’s what they’ve done.”
While the Indians were 3-0 in the league after the win, the Vikings dropped to 1-2 after already having lost to Bryan.
“We had some defensive lapses that cost us,” said Evergreen mentor Todd Momany on the loss. “They had three unearned runs so that didn’t help us. And our bats were kind of cold. Normally, we are getting 10 to 15 hits a game. She just shut us down today.
“We couldn’t string too much together to score a run. So hats off to the pitcher (Alisa Shelt). She did a good job.”
Wauseon scored a run in three of the first four innings, and as it turned out, that was all they would need.
In the bottom of the third after already holding a 1-0 advantage, the Indians did some damage with two outs.
Juli Spadafore led off the inning with a walk, but following consecutive outs, Christina Norman hit a shallow fly ball that dropped for a single. Ally Tefft would single in Juli Spadafore to give Wauseon a 2-0 lead.
Evergreen was able to get runners into scoring position on multiple occasions, however, Shelt stopped them in their tracks each time.
In the top of the fourth, Andrea Smithmyer led off with a base hit to left. A ground out advanced her to second, but Shelt then drew a fly out from Mikayla Ball and a pop up off the bat of Katie Rice to end the inning.
Shelt went the full game in the circle to record the win, scattering three Viking hits and striking out eight while walking no one.
“Her arm is strong right now,” said Croninger of Shelt. “It’s one of those things where, if she is going strong, I’m not gonna pull her. Because she’s already proven last year and this year that, she’s my number one pitcher. So we are gonna stick with her as much as we can.”
The Indians responded in the next half inning as Katie Couts singled, Harlee Floss reached on an error, and Shelt also singled around a strikeout to fill the bases.
Kyrin Grime then reached on a fielder’s choice where the throw to home was not in time, scoring the third Indian run of the game. The Indians followed with a single by Norman, but this time the throw home accounted for an out to save a run. Then a fly out ended the inning.
Shelt mowed down the Vikings in the top of the sixth with a pair of strikeouts and a ground out.
“She moves the ball around a lot,” said Momany of the Wauseon pitcher. “Now last year (when) we faced her she struck 14 of us out. It wasn’t that bad this year, so we learned a little. We put the ball in play, but hey, they played a solid game.”
Evergreen had a base runner in each of the last two innings but could not advance them past second base.
The win was Wauseon’s third straight in league play, while it also gave them their 11th victory in 13 games. Croninger is encouraged about what she’s seen from her young Indians.
“I think being the new coach, the girls have bought into what I want them to do,” she said. “And the biggest thing that I bring is just comradery. If you’re not a team in softball, you’re not gonna win.”
Tefft finished 1 for 3 with an RBI to pace the Indians on offense. Shelt went 2 for 4 with a run scored.
Wauseon is at Eastwood Tuesday in non-league action, while Evergreen hosts Ottawa Hills on Wednesday.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010