By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
ANDOVER TOWNSHIP —
With the Pymatuning Valley softball team starting its season nearly a week after everybody else, coach Andy Gray really didn’t know what to expect.
The Lakers proved to be very offensive in beating Lakeside, 15-4 and 13-11, in twinbill Saturday at PV.
“I did not have the expectation we would come out and play the way we played,” Gray said. “I knew there would be errors. It’s the first game and it’s cold, but our bats were clicking.
“We’ve worked extremely hard. We were inside. All we could do was hit.”
On the other side of the equation, Lakeside coach Kerri Weir believes the Dragons need to get a bit more defensive. They committed 10 errors in the two games.
“Offensively, I’m not upset at all,” she said. “We hit.
“When we make mistakes, we have a hard time recovering from that. We’re not playing at a level right now where we can afford (10 errors). We gave up some solid hits here and there. If we clean up the errors and the misplays in between, we should be OK.”
PV 15, Lakeside 4
The Lakers (2-0) set the tone for the remainder of the day with five runs in the home half of the first then came back with five more in the second in taking an 10-1 advantage.
“We can’t give up 10 runs in a softball game and expect to compete,” Weir said. “After the second inning, we settled in and performed at the level we should be at. It was too little, too late.”
Pymatuning Valley added at least a run in three of its next four at-bats.
Pitcher Megan Stech aided her own cause in driving in four runs on her three base knocks, including a double. In the circle, she allowed four runs — two earned — on five hits. She struck out six and walked six.
Nicole Mann doubled twice and scored four runs for the Lakers while Heather Brant had three hits, including a double, drove in a pair and scored three times. Jenna Lower scored three runs on a pair of hits and Emily Ramey tripled and scored three times.
After falling behind, 10-1, the Dragons (1-4) tallied three times in the fourth to right the ship.
Kayla Johnston doubled and Brianna Kingston scored two runs for Lakeside.
PV 13, Lakeside 11
The break between games sent the Dragons and Lakers spiraling in opposite directions.
“We started out well,” Weir said. “We scored enough runs to win. Our defense was just not up to what it needs to be.”
“I hate doubleheaders,” Gray said. “Maybe it was the break and we ate. We were lackadaisical. We played like we were napping.”
The first three hitters for Lakeside — Courtney Smith, Johnston and Taylor Thome — plated runs as the Dragons went up, 3-0.
Smith led off with a double and scored on an attempted sacrifice by Johnston. Smith was hung up between second and third on the play and, as she retreated to second, the throw sailed into center field.
By the time the ball was retrieved, both Smith and Johnston had crossed the plate.
Thome followed with a single that was misplayed, ending up at third when the dust had settled. Brianna Leonard followed with an RBI single.
After the Lakers went down in order, Lakeside added to its lead.
Walks issued to Taylor Cochran and Kayla Beckwith and an infield single by Smith loaded the bases. Cochran scored as Johnston reached on yet another PV miscue.
Thome brought home Beckwith and Smith with a two-run single. Johnston scored on a single by Leonard and Thome scored on a groundout by A’dria Mathers as the Dragons took an 8-0 lead through an inning and a half.
“That helped our confidence at the plate,” Weir said. “But we can’t be content no matter where we’re at in the game. With where we’re at defensively, we have a hard time coming back (if we get behind).”
The Lakers sliced into to that deficit in the home half of the second.
Angela Lipani plated Mann with a ground out and Sierra Smith’s two-bagger to left center scored Jackie Gale, running for Stech and Lexi Kirby, running for Ramey.
Pymatuning Valley trailed, 8-3, through two.
“They kept chipping away,” Weir said. “They got a run here, a run there and at the end of the game, those runs mattered.”
The Lakers sent 13 batters to the plate in the fourth and tallied nine runs — six of those with two outs.
“We fought back,” Gray said. “I’m proud of the effort after the first and second inning.’
Brant drove in three with a double to left-center, Ramey brought in a pair with single to left-center and Sierra Smith brought home two more with a triple.
By the time the Dragons returned to their bench, that 8-3 lead had turned into a 12-8 deficit.
“I think the confidence we gained from the first game helped,” Gray said. “They saw we can score runs if we get a chance.
“I wasn’t worried when we were down, 8-0, because of what we did in the first game.”
Ramey’s RBI single scored Mann in the fifth to extend the PV advantage to 13-8.
Lakeside wasn’t done quite yet.
Courtney Smith singled and later scored on a single by Leonard. Andrea Davis, running for Leonard, scored on an infield single by Taylor Cochran and Mathers scored on a bases-loaded walk issued to Brianna Kingston as the Dragons drew to within two, 13-11, midway through the sixth.
Lakeside threatened again in the seventh, but failed to tally.
Courtney Smith led off with a double and Johnston reached on an error, advancing Smith. Johnston took second on a wild pitch.
The Lakers retired the next three batters with the ball never leaving the infield to close out the victory.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.