MOUNT VERNON — For the early portion of this season, the Mount Vernon High School varsity softball team was trying to figure out who they were and how good they could be. An 0-5 start left the team shaking its head.
The last week, however, answered a lot of questions and the Yellow Jackets now know who they are and what their mission is.
Mount Vernon capped a 5-0 week by pounding Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division leader Big Walnut, 10-2, on Saturday afternoon. With the victory, the Jackets joined the Golden Eagles atop the OCC Cardinal standings with a 6-1 mark.
“This is great; this is the team we need to see every game,” said Mount Vernon coach Carisa Frysinger. “I’ve talked to them about having that hunger for the game, and by inning two today, I told them I wasn’t seeing it. We needed to find that hunger, and get in their heads. That’s what changed it.”
“We are just finally getting our heads into it,” said Mount Vernon catcher Kayla Riley. “We started out slow, and we finally realized we had to get the fire we’ve been missing.”
Saturday’s game, a makeup from earlier in the season, started with Big Walnut taking a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Shelby Fink reached on a Mount Vernon error, stole second base and then moved to third on a passed ball. Catcher Jordan Stanley drove Fink in with a double to left following a strikeout by Mount Vernon pitcher Kylee Marcum.
Mount Vernon threatened in the bottom of the inning, but failed to capitalize on a single by Raven Farley. The Eagles also missed a scoring opportunity in the top of the second inning after Tayler Nance led off with a single. Nance moved to second on a wild pitch and then stole third, but that’s all the further she got as Marcum mowed down the next three batters — all looking at strike three.
After the Jackets went in order in the bottom of the second, Big Walnut got to Marcum again in the top of the third. Almost exactly like the first inning, Fink walked to leadoff, stole second base and came around to score on another double by Stanley. Michelle Hoffman struck out for the second time in between Stanley’s RBI hit, as did Butts who followed Stanley. Marcum walked the next batter before getting Nance to fly out to Sarah Palm in center, ending the inning.
Already down 2-0, Frysinger tried to fire up her players before batting in the bottom of the third and it worked. Kate Reynolds was hit by a pitch with one out to give the Jackets a base runner. A pop-up kept her at first, but Karina Shackle came up with a single to left to advance her. Marcum followed with an RBI single to center, and all of the sudden, Mount Vernon began to show signs of life at the plate. Victoria Queen stepped in and loaded the bases with a single back up the middle, setting the stage for Riley.
Looking for something she could drive, Riley got just that. She hit an 0-2 pitch deep to left-center, clearing the bases and giving Mount Vernon a 4-2 lead. Butts got Olivia Starmer to fly out to end the threat, but the damage was done and Marcum was just settling in.
“Her hit was huge,” Frysinger said of Riley. “She broke it open; she pounded that ball. It was a shot.”
“Getting through the lineup and seeing her once was a big part of it,” Riley said of the rally. “I was just looking for a base hit. I wanted to do what I could for my team, and score some runs.”
For the second time in the game, Marcum struck out Big Walnut’s 7, 8 and 9 hitters and the Eagles never really threatened again. Big Walnut managed only one base runner in the final four innings, which came off a walk in the fifth.
“She really fired us up,” said Queen. “When we are all talking, it fires her up to. She pitched a lot of strikes.”
Mount Vernon, meantime, was just getting warmed up. The Jackets batted around in the bottom of the fourth inning. Natalie Scott drilled the leadoff pitch from Butts to deep center field for a double, and after she moved up on a wild pitch, Palm brought her around with a single to right. That prompted a Big Walnut pitching change, which saw Tabitha Piper move in from center to take the mound.
Reynolds greeted Piper by hitting into a fielder’s choice, and the Eagles barely got Palm at second base for the first out. Farley grounded back to the pitcher for out No. 2, moving Reynolds up a bag and the Jackets were faced with another two-out situation. They came through once again, however.
Shackle walked to put two runners on, and Marcum hit a shot to short, which Fink fielded but threw away, allowing Reynolds to score. Queen followed with an RBI single to left, scoring Shackle and moving pinch runner Shelbie Biddle up a base. Both Biddle and Queen managed a double steal in the next at-bat before Riley walked on four straight pitches. Starmer followed with another walk on four more straight, forcing in Biddle. Piper continued to struggle with her control, walking Scott, who was batting for the second time in the inning. That walk scored Queen and gave Mount Vernon a solid 9-2 lead.
“We didn’t want to let up,” said Queen. “Once we got into their heads, we had the advantage and kept it going.”
Mount Vernon added one more run in the bottom of the sixth. Queen singled for her third time on the day and came around to score on an RBI double by Starmer. Scott then reached on an error, but Palm flied out to end the threat.
Marcum (9-6), who threw a no-hitter earlier in the week, allowed just three hits to the Eagles, and walked three. She gave up the two runs, one earned, while going the full seven innings. The most impressive stat of the day was her 14 strikeouts, however.
Queen was the only Jacket hitter to pick up more than one hit, and she scored three times. In all, eight of the nine Yellow Jacket starters recorded a hit. Reynolds was the only one not to, but just as importantly, she scored twice.
“We played great defense, and Kylee had a great game. Fourteen strikeouts is her best all year,” said Frysinger. “This is probably one of the best teams we’ve faced. ... We’ve still got a lot of games left, but I think we’ve finally found our confidence. We’ve finally found our groove, that cockiness that I tell them about. I tell them to get mean, get mad when they are in the box and expect to get a hit, and I think they are doing that.”
The Jackets continue OCC play this week with games at home on Monday and Friday (Franklin Heights and Watkins Memorial) and at Watkins Memorial on Tuesday. They Jackets also host Fairbanks on Wednesday, and play a quad on Saturday at Worthington Kilbourne.
“I believe that we are a great team,” said Riley. “We are a very young team, but if we can keep this up, we could go a long way.”
Queen added, “We are trying to stay positive and keep things in perspective. We want more and more, and hopefully, we can keep winning.”