Whitewater shortstop Lily Griffith knew the fastball was coming. After seeing three fastballs in her first at-bat against McIntosh starter Rebecca Muh, she just had to trust her eyes.
In the third inning, she dug into the plate with a simple objective. She had to drive in the run that was sitting at second base. After fouling off a few tough pitches, Griffith got the fastball that she was searching for.
She didn’t miss it.
Griffith turned on the inside fastball and deposited an RBI single into left field. Kyee Ricks raced around to score as Whitewater jumped out to an early lead. The Lady Wildcats collected three runs in the frame en route to an 8-1 victory over McIntosh on Thursday night.
“She is a great pitcher and I have known her for a while,” Griffith said. “I just went up there and tried to hit the inside pitch when I saw it.”
Griffith went 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs and 2 stolen bases. She was a catalyst in the lineup as Whitewater scored runs in the first, third, fifth, and sixth innings. Ricks went 3-for-3 with 4 steals and 3 runs scored. Raeghan Byrom also added 2 RBIs on the night.
The offensive outburst backed another strong performance from Emma Vessell in the circle. She picked up the win after allowing four hits over seven innings of work. Vessell also struck out seven batters as Whitewater improved to 16-2 overall.
“The girls came out and they played well,” Whitewater head coach Robert Townsend said. “We got a good pitching performance by Emma Vessell and we got some key hits in situations to score some runs. It was good baserunning by our players.”
McIntosh put up a valiant effort against the Wildcats. The Chiefs were a different opponent from the previous meeting on August 9. They made consistent contact and put pressure on Vessell at times.
In the third inning, the Chiefs got a run behind a leadoff single from Kayla Kinzer and an RBI double from Muh. The run cut the deficit to 4-1 as the game reached the halfway point.
However, defensive miscues continued to plague McIntosh. They had three crucial errors that allowed four runs to score. In the first inning, Ashlyn Gaines had a throwing error that allowed Ricks to score.
The errors flared up again in the fifth inning as Emma Dunlap couldn’t corral a throw at first base allowing Whitewater to clear the bases and score three unearned runs as the ball trickled into the outfield.
The mistakes proved to be dividing line between both teams. It was something McIntosh head coach Carlie Anderson, who celebrated her birthday on Thursday, will look to clean up before the region tournament starts.
“I thought we played well and we hit the ball well at times,” Anderson said. “We had a few mistakes here and there that hurt us. They have enough speed to take advantage anytime you make a mistake. I thought we competed tonight.”
Muh took the loss despite another solid start. She held the Wildcats in check for most of the game, dancing out of trouble in the second inning as she got back-to-back strikeouts to end the Wildcat threat.
Muh went seven innings and gave up eight runs, four earned, in her outing. She also racked up three strikeouts alongside two walks.
The start left an impression on Townsend, who said the early runs were important in not letting Muh get into a rhythm.
“It is big because Rebecca (Muh) is a good pitcher and you want to get some runs on her,” Townsend said. “She can keep them in the game and you want the margin to be wide so that you can have some cushion if something does happen.”
McIntosh will take a 6-10 record into a road game against Landmark Christian on Saturday. They sit at 5-3 and in third place in Region 3-AAAAA play.
Whitewater improved to 6-1 in the region and sits in second place. The Wildcats encounter a four games in four nights stretch. They start with a road matchup at Mundy’s Mill as they prepare for the region tournament.
“It is always our goal to try and win everything that we can,” Townsend said. “That is going to set us up to play Starr’s Mill again.”
Griffith agrees. She hopes the team will continue to develop deeper chemistry for the grueling stretch run.
“We got to get a lot of rest this weekend and stay hydrated,” Griffith said. “We are supposed to have a team bonding event to come together and be ready to play.”