Emma Vessell led Whitewater to victory over McIntosh on Thursday as the Wildcats continued a hot start to their season. (Staff Photo by Christopher Dunn)

by Rob Grubbs

School started last week, and softball season is already in full swing. 

The defending Region 3-AAAAA champion Whitewater Lady Wildcats got off to a sprinter’s start by winning four games, all in impressive fashion. Coach Robert Townsend returns key players at every position and has a deep pitching staff as well. 

Starr’s Mill, Sandy Creek, Fayette County and McIntosh all pulled out wins in the opening week in what looks to be a big year ahead for all. 

The Wildcats opened on the road on Tuesday against Fayette County and got a combined no-hitter from freshman Makayla Coffield and Emma Friedel.  Seniors Alexys Buffington and Alexis Larrow reached base and scored on all five of their combined at bats, while junior Lily Griffith drove in three runs in the win. For the Tigers, Jasmine Pullen made a couple of stellar defensive plays and was the only player to reach base. 

That set up one of the top region pitching matchups of the season when Wildcat junior Emma Vessel faced McIntosh’s ace, junior Rebecca Muh. The Wildcats scored in the bottom of the first when Griffith lined a double into the gap to score Coffield. Muh quickly regained her composure and got the next five outs via the strikeout. 

Whitewater took control with single runs in the third, fifth, and sixth innings. Larrow and Buffington both had RBIs, and the Wildcats’ speed manufactured a run in the sixth. 

From the circle, Vessel was in control throughout, as she only gave up a couple of hits and struck out seven while walking no one. 

“Emma did a great job,” said Townsend. “She only gave up two hits. She got ahead and stayed ahead in the count, just an overall outstanding job.”

Vessel only got into trouble once, in the fourth inning. Ashlyn Gaines and Muh singled and were at second and third with two outs, but Vessel recorded the strikeout to end the threat. In the top of the 7th, Muh led off with a shot towards right field, but Dylan Bronkhorst made a great play to get the out. 

“Our defense played well,” said Townsend. “Dylan made some plays at second for us tonight.”

The Wildcats prevailed 4-0, despite the great effort form Muh. She pitched a complete game and struck out nine. 

“She is a great pitcher,” praised Townsend. “We enjoy the opportunity to face her.” 

Whitewater also won two games on Saturday against top competition, a 3-1 win over Alexander and an 8-6 win over Hampton. 

The Sandy Creek Patriots got off to a strong start with an 8-2 win over Woodward and followed that with victories over their county rival, Fayette County. The Tigers got there first win of the season over Mundy’s Mill. 

The Starr’s Mill Panthers participated in a tournament in Carrolton over the weekend and won four out of five games to round out week one action.


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