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PAXTON — Sometimes coaches have to look beyond the final score and consider the game within the game — those moments that show a team that things might be a bit better than they appear.
On Monday, PBL head softball coach Lindsey Alred needed to think about such matters because her team’s early-inning performance seemed to dwarf everything else.
PBL allowed nine first-inning runs in Game 1, a 13-2 defeat, and then allowed another eight in the first inning of a 13-3 defeat in Game 2. The Panthers were 1-5 heading into Tuesday’s double header against J.L. Nash, but PBL’s effort after the first frame on Monday had encouraging signs.
Four walks and a hit-by-pitch led to the nine-run first in the opener. However, with relief pitcher Mallory Lithgow throwing consistent strikes over five innings, Alred’s team played solidly, with third baseman Cassidi Nuckols, shortstop Valeree Johnson and second baseman Kelsey Vaughn all making one or more nifty plays.
Offensively, PBL had its struggles against hard-throwing Unity righty Harlie Duncan, but the Panthers managed single runs in the second and third innings and Cassidi Nuckols had a solid single in the fourth. Nuckols scored PBL’s initial run on Lindsey Windler’s RBI ground out and Lithgow scored the second, reaching on an error and coming home after Unity’s error on a Johnson sacrifice bunt.
In game two, the Rockets took another substantial lead, but PBL rallied for three runs in the second inning to make a game of it for a while. In that frame, Madison Grohler singled, Karlee Adkins walked, Ezri Vesely rapped a run-scoring single (plating Grohler) and the Panthers took advantage of four hit-by-pitches to earn a couple of runs the hard way.
PBL had opened its season by splitting two games against Rantoul-Eater on August 6. Nuckols went 1-for-2 during a 13-3 loss while in the nightcap, Windler’s two-run single during a four-run first inning keyed a 6-3 victory. Madi Peden had led off the inning with a single and scored on a ground out by Ellie Smith. Along with Windler’s heroics, Grohler added a run-scoring single.
Last Tuesday, PBL lost 13-2 and 9-8 to Bloomington. In Game 1, Cassie Oyer and Suzy Quinn plated runs with singles. In Game 2, a three-run double by Dakota Odom keyed a six-run third frame for Alred’s squad.
Later this week, PBL travels to St. Joseph for a 4:30 p.m. double header and then travels to Danville for two games (starting at 10 a.m.) with Danville Southview.