The bats pick up Waynesville's lackluster defense that gave up three unearned runs

WAYNESVILLE — Waynesville softball coach Kelly Jackson has said if the Tigers' bats are there to back her pitcher, they could win a lot of ball games.

On Wednesday night, her prediction rang true.

After falling behind 1-0, the Tigers (1-0) put up six unanswered runs en route to a 9-5 win over Ozark Conference rival Kickapoo in their first regular-season game.

They didn't come out of the fight clean though, as starting shortstop Katelyn Miller went down with an ankle injury during the seventh inning before the final out of the game.

On a 3-2 pitch the Chiefs' batter hit a foul ball out of the park on the third-base side. Miller was tracking the ball, just in case, and when the ball went over the fence she turned to head back to her position.

Miller then fell to the ground and let out a cry. She was grabbing her ankle and said she head a pop.

Later that night the Waynesville softball Twitter account said the injury has been diagnosed as a sprain.

Miller tweeted that she was told she'll be out for at least three weeks.

Waynesville will miss her big bat. Miller went 3-4 with two doubles, a home run and five RBI during Wednesday's game.

“She's my number four hitter and she's in that slot for a reason,” Jackson said. “She's powerful, quick on the bases and reliable. Hopefully her ankle isn't too bad and we can get her back out here soon.”

Taking out Miller's numbers from Wednesday's game, the Waynesville lineup went 9-26 with four RBI.

“We hit OK,” said freshman catcher Morgan Loggins, who had two of Waynesville's RBI. “When Miller hit that home run, that brought us up. We came out to play.”

In the top of the first inning, Waynesville pitcher Diamond Thomas struck out the first two batters before hitting the next two batters. The next batter stroked a ball into left-center to give the Chiefs' a 1-0 lead.

The Tigers got that run in the back when Miller hit the first of her two doubles to bring home Thomas.

In the bottom of the second Thomas hit an RBI double and then Loggins blooped a two-RBI single into left-center. Miller then hit her second double to center to bring in two runners and Waynesville was on top 6-1 heading into the third.

After a quick third frame, an error in Waynesville's outfield allowed a run to score.

The lead wasn't trimmed for long though; in the bottom of the fourth Miller crushed a ball over the centerfield fence for a two-run home run to give the Tigers an 8-2 lead.

Kickapoo kept plugging away in the top of the fifth, getting another unearned run after an error put a runner on first and a couple of singles plated the runner.

Jackson said all of the errors were probably due to the team being unable to practice outside due to the heat index.

“This is the first day that we've been outside in over a week, so I knew it was going to be a little sketchy on the defensive side,” Jackson said. “If we were able to get out here and practice, I don't think we would've made them.”

In the top of the sixth another error put a runner on. Thomas then walked a batter, a groundout advanced the runners to second and third and then a throwing error plated a run. An RBI single cut Waynesville's lead to 8-5.

C.J. Parker got one of those runs back in the bottom of the sixth with an RBI single into left and a double play and a groundout in the top of the seventh sealed the Tigers' 9-5 victory.

It was a tough night for Thomas, who gave up five runs (two earned) on five hits, four walks and two hit batters while striking out five.

“Diamond didn't have her best stuff, but that's what shows a good pitcher, she can fight through it and get the win,” Jackson said. “Our bats helped us out, but we just need to continue to finish once we jump ahead and put the nail in the coffin.”

The Tigers will travel to Springfield to take on Hillcrest on Tuesday.

Loggins said she would like to see the defense get better the next time around.

“We need our defense to get better and we have to keep practicing on our hitting,” Loggins said. “We just want to win.”