By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
For the Grand Valley softball team, Wednesday’s Northeastern Athletic Conference matchup with Bloomfield could have gone far differently. The Mustangs, however, found exactly the right mix of patience and aggression to drop the Cardinals, 12-0, in five innings at Grand Valley.
The Mustangs coupled 11 hits with eight walks in tallying those 12 runs.
“I’m proud of that,” GV coach Beth Hooser said. “We haven’t been very disciplined (so far this season). Today, we were relaxed and that made a difference. We had the confidence we needed to hit the ball.”
Grand Valley (4-5, 3-4) jumped on the Cardinals in the home half of the first and it set the tone for the rest of the contest.
“A few of the girls kind of have the mentality that there are girls they look to to hit the ball,” Hooser said. “The younger girls see those older girls make good contact and they feel they can do it, too.”
Abby Paskey led off the first with a double for the Mustangs to get the ball rolling. Shar Miller drew a one-out walk and Katie Futty singled to left to bring them both home for the 2-0 advantage.
With the help of her defense, winning pitcher Katie Paskey (4-3) escaped a first inning jam without a scratch and used it, and the early lead, for momentum.
“It means a lot that I can count on my defense,” Katie Paskey said. “They backed me up. When the team is backing me, it gives me the confidence to hit my spots.”
A throw from third baseman Chris Futty, after she fielded a ground ball led to catcher Shar Miller tagging a runner out at the plate to end the first.
“That was a huge play,” Hooser said. “Our goal was to not let them score. If we don’t make that play, the mentality would have been different the rest of the game.”
After the play at the plate ended the top half of the first, Katie Paskey struck out the next four Cardinals she faced.
“In the first inning, she struggled a little bit,” Hooser said. “She settled down in the second and that makes all the difference in the world.
“You could tell the air fell out of them (after the four strikeouts). Strikeouts are huge. We’ve had it happen the other way. We know the feeling.”
“It felt good,” Katie Paskey said. “It felt like I couldn’t miss.”
Katie Paskey fanned eight and walked no one in a two-hit shutout. The bottom four batters in the Cardinals’ order were 0-8 with seven strikeouts in the game.
“We tell her to just let them put the ball in play and have the defense make the play,” Hooser said. “She’s done a great job this year.”
After Katie Paskey sat the Cardinals down in order in the second, pesky Abby Paskey went back to work, drawing a two-out walk. She scored on Katie Paskey’s single to center. Katie Paskey scored on Shar Miller’s single and Miller scored on Chris Futty’s single to put the Mustangs up, 6-0, through two.
“It definitely seemed like all of a sudden, it was ‘here we go,’” Bloomfield coach Cindy Hennessey said. “Then the pitcher gives up. We don’t have any fast pitchers and all of our pitchers are seniors. We’re trying to work on that for nest year.
“I’ve got a good group of girls who don’t ever give up. It’s too bad you can’t win on heart. If you could, we’d win 100 percent of our games.”
Katie Paskey dodged another bullet in the third, stranding a runner at third when Miller threw out a would-be base stealer at second to end the inning.
The bottom of the order fueled the knock-out blow — a six-run third — for Grand Valley.
“The bottom of the order held their own today,” Hooser said. “They did a nice job. I feel like that’s something that goes hand in hand with a three-up, three-down inning. That gave us confidence at the plate. When we struggle in the field, those at-bats become more difficult.”
Lorraine Miller and Ashley Allman, the eighth and ninth batters, respectively, each singled with one out. Abby Paskey brought home Lorraine Miller when she reached on an error and Katie Paskey plated Allman with an infield single. Abby Paskey scored on a bases-loaded walk to Jessica Finley and Katie Paskey strolled across the dish when Katie Futty also walked with the bases loaded.
Seventh batter Amber Sieracki singled home Shar Miller and Finley to complete the onslaught.
“(Sieracki, Lorraine Miller and Allman hitting) was really important,” Katie Paskey said. “They started that inning and got us right back to the top of the order. I’m really proud of those girls at the bottom of the order.”
Katie Paskey retired the final six batters she faced in order to complete the Grand Valley victory.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.