HOWARD — Strike hard, strike first and strike often.
Softball teams that follow that philosophy usually find success.
Danville followed that to the letter Tuesday, rolling to a 13-3 Mid-Buckeye Conference victory over host East Knox in just five innings.
“Any coach will tell you a big start makes the game a whole lot easier,” said Danville coach Mike Beheler.
Danville (13-8 overall, 8-2 MBC) jumped on East Knox pitcher Courtney Cole right from the opening pitch. Four of the first five batters smacked hits and the Devils were on their way to a big inning, scoring six times before EK could even get the second out of the inning.
Singles by Darci Lauderbaugh, Jessica Francis, Olivia Rice and Molly Alberts got things going; and Mariah Cline added another later in the inning as the Devils stomped on the gas early.
A nice 5-2-3 double play by the Bulldogs kept things from getting really ugly as Danville had the bases loaded with just one out and had already batted around.
The Devils kept it going in the second, sparked by a long home run off the bat of Rice and scoring three more times.
“I struggled last year, but this year the work is paying off. This is my sixth home run,” said Rice. “I’m seeing the ball better. I’ve hit in the cage a lot more, and it’s helping a lot.”
Rice finished just a double shy of the cycle as she added an RBI triple off the right-field fence an inning later.
“Olivia’s red hot hitting the ball. She’s seeing it well and she’s got her swing going right now,” Beheler said.
With the score 11-0 after three, it would have been easy for the Bulldogs to throw in the towel. Danville pitcher Kat Mickley was mowing them down, striking out three and allowing just two walks. But, Alissa Allman broke the slide with a sharp double and the Bulldogs found their offensive eye.
Another double by Michaella Lowe and a single by Alysha Howard and East Knox looked to be back in business.
“Our bats just took a little long to light up, took a little long to get in the groove,” said East Knox coach Danielle McKown. “We are very capable of hitting off their pitcher. We demonstrated that at the end. It just took us a while to find our offense tonight.”
“East Knox never gave up. They played hard as a whole team. I like that,” said Beheler. “They had a big upset of Northridge last week. We knew we’d have to be ready to play. We were.”