Drury's Record Stymies Hurricanes' AttackNORTH ADAMS, Mass — Sometimes there is a fine line between being winless and undefeated.
Take the Drury and Hoosac Valley softball teams for instance. There wasn't much of a difference between the two rivals in their game at Francis Millard Field on Monday afternoon. Both teams had good pitching and solid defense and those who hadn't seen either team play yet might have had a tough time telling which squad had yet to lose yet this season and which team was still searching for its first win.
But it's the little things that teams do, like stringing together enough hits in the same inning or picking the right time to get on base, that separate clubs in the winning column. The Blue Devils have done those little things so far this season, while the Hurricanes have been just one step behind so far in 2012.
Those trends continued on Monday, as Drury scratched out a few runs on offense and rode the arm of sophomore pitcher Cat Record on its way to a 2-0 win at home. The victory improves the Blue Devils' record to 5-0 this year, while Hoosac drops to 0-4.
"It's been a tough schedule for us," Hurricanes head coach Morgan Shafer said of her team's slow start. "We've been away for all four games, and we haven't had a home game yet. My pitchers are doing fantastic, my defense is getting better every game, but we're just not hitting the ball very well.
"We just have to start producing runs. We've just not been getting the good side of the coin here."
Run production was a tough thing to come by on Monday for Hoosac, which has lost three of its first four games by a total of just five runs. Record was pretty much on top of her game, allowing just two hits and two walks to earn her second shutout of the year. The second-year starter struck out five batters and worked her way around three Drury errors to improve her record to 5-0 this year.
"I was a little worried about Cat today because it was so warm," Blue Devils head coach Mary Ann Maroni said. "Cat is a cold-weather pitcher. She doesn't like it when it's hot. I was a little worried about her, but she performed beautifully. We had three or four errors today, which is uncharacteristic for us. We're still working on communicating and finding out who has the wheels and who has the glove."
Despite temperatures in the high 80s, Record was a pretty cool customer on the mound, allowing just a leadoff single to Alexis Bushika to start the game and later surrendering a bloop single to Tori Rumbolt, which Maroni said could have been caught in shallow center field with a little more communication from her defense. Still, the Drury coach had high praise for a young, inexperienced team that she feels is growing with confidence game by game.
"We had a couple of mental errors today, but we have a lot of new players that are really starting to gel as a team," Maroni said. "We really have a lot of new players and, although some of them have played on other varsity teams before, many of them are playing new positions this year. They're a lot of fun, though. They're young, they're enthusiastic, they like to have fun, and it's fun to win."
Just like Record, Canes' starter Ashley Ciepiela was pretty sharp from the circle. She allowed zero walks and just one run in four innings of work, striking out one to take the loss. The Devils got to Ciepiela in the third inning, however, stringing together three hits in one frame to push their first run across the board. Sophomore catcher Amber Iacuessa (2 for 2) led off with a base hit before senior Danielle Cardinal (2 for 2) moved her to third base with a double. Ciepiela got the next batter out, but junior Katie Hancock followed next with an RBI single to score Iacuessa and give the hosts a 1-0 lead.
Unlike Drury, Hoosac was unable to take advantage of its opportunities. The Hurricanes put some runners on base, thanks mainly to a pair of walks from junior Carly Kondel and three Blue Devils' errors, but they couldn't come up with the timely hit to manufacture runs. Drury junior Amanda Ramsdell did that for her team, however, leading off the bottom of the sixth inning with a double down the left-field line. Ramsdell eventually scored after groundouts by Record and Arianna Hilchey, giving the Devils a much-needed insurance run.
That run came off of junior Bushika, who struck out one batter in two innings of relief work.
"Ashley started off and pitched a great game, but part of our strategy was to put Lexi back in when the top of the order came back around," Shafer said. "We wanted to mix it up a little bit before the end of the game because we knew they have good hitters. You keep someone in there too long, and they're going to start cranking on them.
"You can't really argue with two runs [allowed]. We're getting base runners on, but we've got to hit the ball to produce. We're either popping up or not getting it out of the infield. The top of my lineup is putting the ball in play, but we just need to finish."
Ramsdell is one player who hasn't had a problem in that department this year. The Drury center fielder went 2 for 3 with a single and a double on Monday, raising her team-leading batting average to .643. She is tied for the team lead in hits with Hancock and is second on the squad in runs scored.
After flying under the radar a bit on a team with five seniors last year, Ramsdell is now front and center on a young team that is surpassing many expectations so far this year.
"It's a big win for us today," Ramsdell said. "Hoosac is always a tough team and a tough game to play in general. I think we all worked hard to pull it all together and get the win. We have a lot of new additions to the team this year, but many of the girls have played varsity softball and they know what they're doing."
As for expectations for this new, mostly inexperienced team, Ramsdell said, "We're going to try and take it one game at a time, but [making it to the] Western Mass. [tournament] wouldn't hurt. That would be nice."
The Blue Devils next play at Mount Everett at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, while the Hurricanes host Wahconah at 4 p.m. on the same day.