MILLEDGEVILLE – There are momentum-swinging
plays, and then there are swings that change momentum in the game of softball.
Newman was the benefactor of both Wednesday afternoon against Milledgeville, leading to an 8-3 nonconference win at Millwheel Park.
The Comets trailed 3-2 with Milledgeville runners on second and third and one out in the bottom of the fourth, but escaped the inning unscathed. Alli Schmidt was called out trying to reach home on a passed ball, and Newman pitcher Hailey Frank induced a groundout to end the threat.
Milledgeville coach Brad Grenoble warned his team about a momentum swing between innings.
“I should have talked to them a little more,”
Grenoble said. “Any time you get called out at home, that’s big. You have to come out and throw strikes and play good defense behind your pitcher, and that’s something we didn’t do. We’re better than that. We’ll get there. There’s a long way to go.”
In need of a spark, Newman (5-1) broke the game open in the top of the fifth. Kate Bonnell led off the inning with a single through the left side,
Madison Craft doubled into left-center past a diving attempt by Schmidt, and Frank was intentionally
walked to load the bases with one out. Trinity Martinez was hit by a 2-2 pitch from Ciara Miller to plate Bonnell to even the score.
Jenna Johnson stepped to the plate next for the Comets, and laced a line-drive double just inside the right-field line to score Craft and Frank easily. A throwing error by Milledge-ville catcher Alexis Janssen
allowed Martinez and
Johnson to touch home and give the Comets a 7-3 lead.
“It just takes a couple key hits in some key spots and an overthrow,” Newman coach JD Waldschmidt said. “Once that happened, it set the tone for the rest of the game.”
Johnson had struck out looking in her first two plate appearances, and opted to take an aggressive approach in swinging at the first pitch in her third at-bat.
“I really got discouraged when I struck out the second time,” Johnson said. “I just knew I had to battle back with a nice hit, and I believed in myself once I got the chance to get a swing.”
Koerner came on in relief of Frank (1-1) in the bottom of the fifth, and needed just four pitches to pick up three outs. She gave up just one hit in the next two innings.
Frank added a solo home run to right field to lead off the seventh, extending her consecutive homer streak to three games.
The junior lasted just four innings in her start, giving up three earned runs, five hits and four walks, but provided a punch offensively with a 2-for-3 performance that included two RBIs and two runs scored. It was sweet redemption for Frank, who injured herself sliding head-first into third base last year during a home game against the Missiles.
“I just wanted to win after what happened last year,” Frank said. “My favorite part is to hit, so I was really excited to start this season. But I also realize I need to step up in the circle. I focus on everybody else’s energy.”
Frank’s two-out RBI single in the top of the first scored Koerner, who worked a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Josie Rank made it 2-0 Comets in the top of the second, as she stole third and raced home after Missiles shortstop Natalie Brown couldn’t corral the high throw from Janssen.
Milledgeville (4-4) marked the board in the bottom of the second, as Jocelyn Folkers came up with a two-out bloop single that fell just inside the line in short left field to score Lindsey Brown.
The Missiles took their first lead of the game in the following inning. Miller and Alexis Janssen led off the half-inning with singles, and Jacquelyn Folkers’ single up the middle brought home courtesy runner Emily Henson and Janssen to make it 3-2 Milledgeville.
Miller took the loss, going five innings and allowing seven runs (five earned), five hits and three walks. The senior southpaw struck out eight, including three in the top of the fourth.
“She’s been good all year. When she hits her spots, she’s unbeatable,” Grenoble said of Miller. “I think she’s one of the top two or three pitchers in the area. She’s mentally strong this year. But we have to back her up by playing good defense.”
Mady Hicks came on in relief of Miller, giving up three hits and the solo blast to Frank while striking out one. She also went 1-for-3 with a double. Schmidt served her purpose as the Missiles’ leadoff hitter, drawing three walks and seeing 24 total pitches in her four plate appearances.
Bonnell and Koerner saw 35 pitches combined as the Comets’ top two hitters in the order. Craft went 2-for-4, Rank was 1-for-2 with a double, and Lauren Wilson also had a double for Newman.