Softball: Niners come through in ‘primetime’ at-bats
By Dave Melton Post-Tribune correspondent April 24, 2013 11:08PM
Andrean's Hannah Kulesa tags the bag at 1st to force out Courtney Espravnik for Lowell's 1st out in the 6th at Andrean in Merrillville on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. | Jim Karczewski~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 29, 2013 6:42AM
MERRILLVILLE—Andrean coach Brooke Baker-Runyon calls them “primetime at-bats,” a term she picked up in college from then-Purdue coach Carol Bruggeman to describe any high-pressure plate appearances with runners on base.
The 59ers’ ability to capitalize on a pair of those key scoring opportunities led Andrean to a 5-1 victory over NCC rival Lowell (7-4, 3-3 NCC).
“I’ve told them that, with those primetime at-bats, you have to put the pressure on the defense,” said Baker-Runyon. “Hopefully with me saying that so much, it’s etched in their minds that what’s best for the team is for them to put the pressure on the defense and try to make something happen.”
The first “primetime” chance came in the game’s opening inning, with the bases loaded and two outs for Andrean (4-3, 4-3 NCC) center fielder Cat Murad. After a wild pitch scored one run, Murad ripped a single into left field, scoring two more runs and spotting the 59ers an early 3-0 lead.
Three innings later, a similar opportunity developed, with runners on second and third for No. 8 hitter Hannah Kulesa. She answered with another single, again scoring two runs and providing all the necessary run support for Andrean starter Brenna Boyle.
“You don’t have to worry if the other team scores one or two runs,” Boyle said of the advantages of having that early lead. “It’s like extra insurance. When you get (in the circle), all you have to do is throw.”
Boyle ran her record to 4-2 with a complete-game victory, allowing one run on four hits and no walks while striking out six in her seven innings of work.
“They didn’t make a lot of mistakes behind her and you’re going to get that when there’s a good pitcher (in the circle),” said Lowell head coach Pete Iussig. “You’re not going to hit the ball real hard. She did a nice job of mixing it up.”
Andrean’s early advantage proved to be crucial once Iussig summoned Brandi Faverty during the fourth inning and had her finish the game. The Lowell pitcher did not allow a base runner in her four innings of work, thanks in large part to an effective drop ball. Nine of the 12 outs recorded by Faverty came on groundouts, including a streak of five straight 6-3 plays.
“That drop ball of hers just drops right off of the table,” Baker-Runyon said of Faverty. “As soon as I saw her come in, I was glad we had five runs on the board.”