By Pedro Velazco
Western’s softball team got off to an ideal start and never let Kokomo get close Monday night in recording a 7-2 victory on the Wildkats’ diamond in a cancer fundraising game between the two squads.
Jenna Wiechmann got the ball rolling for the pink-clad visitors, smashing a three-run homer to dead left to put the Panthers up 3-0 in the top of the first inning. Evie Glover, who drew a leadoff walk, and Brooke Strunk, who reached on a bloop single, came home on the tater.
“Well, I thought the home run really set the tone in the first inning,” Western coach Jim Clouse said. “It took a little wind out of the sail early.”
Western (7-4) added a couple more runs in the second inning as Strunk delivered an RBI double and Caitlyn O’Neal’s lineout to center field plated the second run. Strunk finished 4 for 4 with three singles to go with her double, raising the freshman’s average to .639.
“I really feel like for some reason or anther we weren’t ready to start the game. We come out and we walk the first batter, and they hit a little bloop,” Susong said, noting the bloop would usually be caught. When Wiechmann cranked her homer “I think collectively we dropped our heads a little bit.
“We didn’t take an aggressive approach at the plate. We knew we want to stay off the riseball, and we did that, but we ended up not swinging at a whole lot else.”
Western added a run in the fourth when Evie Glover, who had singled, scored on an error. And the Panthers took a 7-0 lead with a run in the seventh. Raven Black started the rally with a single, and the Panthers pushed a run across aided by a passed ball, a wild pitch and a ground out.
Western starter Erika Beeher pitched the opening four innings for the victory.
“She pitched a phenomenal game against Noblesville on Saturday, one-hit them, a great team,” Clouse said. “I told her [Monday] that we wouldn’t go the full game no matter what. With a big conference game against Cass [today], we wanted her to be sharp so we thought a few innings was the right thing to do.
“Her velocity has always been good, but she had been struggling to find her locations and changeup, and over the last two or three efforts it’s continually gotten better.”
Beehler gave up no hits, two walks and struck out five in her stint to improve to 5-2 on the season.
“She pitched very well, but I think we didn’t take a very aggressive attitude to the plate and I think that hurt us,” Susong said.
Cali Shepherd threw the final three innings for Western. She held the Kats off the scoreboard until the bottom of the seventh. Kokomo rallied for two runs in the final frame. Sarah Haughn started the rally with a single and later scored on Samantha Johnson’s double, then Schuyla Sharp’s single drove in the final run of the game. Johnson had two hits for the Kats.
Kami Sharp took the loss for Kokomo, pitching the first three innings. Summer Lovegrove threw the final four innings, allowing two runs (one earned) with four hits.
“Kami’s been able to hold some really good-hitting teams at bay and Western hit the ball,” Susong said. “All credit to them, they’re a really good team. We knew coming in that we’d probably have to try to outscore them and we just didn’t get it done.”
Both squads wore special uniforms in the cancer awareness game.
“I want to thank the crowd,” Clouse said, noting both schools’ efforts in staging the special game. “The cancer game was really the cause, and I thought the crowd was great.”