West Lafayette scored all of its runs in the first inning and then got two defensive gems late to preserve a 3-2 victory over Central Catholic in Hoosier Conference action Wednesday at the Salisbury Athletic Complex.
Red Devil sophomore Devin Hainje had two extra-base hits, with her triple in the first inning sparking West Side’s three-run rally. She then moved from first base to the pitching circle for the final 22/3 innings to close out the game for starter Meghan Moody.
“I was kind of nervous coming in to pitch, but I still felt I could get the job done,” Hainje said. “I know I have my team behind me, and if I throw strikes they will make the plays. I thought we would get more runs, but we just couldn’t get them in.”
After Central Catholic scored a run in the top of the first inning, West Lafayette grabbed the lead back. Grace Palmieri reached on an infield error and advanced to second on a Grace Malone grounder.
Hainje then punched a triple to right field to score Palmieri, tying the score. With two outs, Madison Welch doubled to center field to score Hainje. Olivia Kirchner and Sophie Millsaps followed with singles, the latter scoring Welch for a 3-1 advantage.
“We always talk about getting out to a lead early, and we did that,” West Side coach Jeff Schmierer said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t put any more on the board after that. We had a couple of runners on in the fifth and sixth innings and just couldn’t score them.”
Moody gave up two hits over 41/3 innings, but surrendered eight walks to Central Catholic before Hainje took over.
“Moody struggled with her control today, but she stayed in there and battled — but we just reached a point where we needed to make a change,” Schmierer said. “Devin did a good job closing the game. I’m not surprised when Devin comes in and does something like that. She’s very capable day in and day out.”
The frustration could be heard in the voice of Central Catholic coach Ashley Perry, who saw her team held to two runs despite West Lafayette pitchers issuing nine walks.
Central Catholic finished the game leaving 10 runners on base. In the seventh inning, Brittni Bouse singled but West Side shortstop Malone turned a Breanna Fickle grounder into a double play. Kelsey Harding singled to left, but was thrown out at second trying to stretch the hit, ending the contest.
“We pitched well enough to win,” Perry said. “We didn’t defend well enough, didn’t hit well enough and didn’t run bases well enough to win. We’re just not there yet. We have a long way to go.”
Not counted in the Knights’ three errors were misplayed fly balls that turned into extra-base hits for the Red Devils.
Central Catholic pitcher Erin Mecklenburg settled in after the first inning. After surrendering four hits in the opening stanza, Mecklenburg scattered four hits over the last six innings.
The Knights’ best defensive play came in the fifth inning. Hainje reached base on a double and Sophie Shinn on a dropped fly ball to right with one out. Left fielder Harding caught a Welch fly ball and then threw out pinch runner Maggie Watkins trying to score from third to end the inning.
“Right now, it’s mental mistakes for us,” Perry said. “We’re capable, but if we don’t start playing the way we are able to, it’s going to be some long games for us. The only reason we didn’t get blown out was because Erin kept us in the game. She did everything we needed her to do, but we just weren’t behind her tonight.”