Jaguars lose in Greg Meiners' debut as head coach
They call her “Pup,” but Lindsay Renneisen was the big dog at the plate for the Bullitt East High School softball team on Tuesday.
The sophomore shortstop broke out of a slump with a two-run homer in the third inning that was the difference in the Lady Chargers’ 3-2 victory over visiting Mercy in a matchup of Top 20 teams.
Renneisen joined the Bullitt East varsity program as a seventh-grader and was nicknamed “Pup” because of her youth. She began starting as an eighth-grader and hit a combined 15 home runs over the past two seasons.
But Tuesday’s home run was her first this year.
“I’ve been struggling a whole lot, and I wasn’t there mentally,” said Renneisen, adding that she did extra work off a batting tee before the game. “I told myself I was going to get a hit, and I did. It felt awesome.”
Mercy, winner of three straight Sixth Region titles, had gone 7-0 against Bullitt East over the past three seasons, including four straight one-run victories.
The teams may well meet again in the 24th District and Sixth Region tournaments, but Renneisen said Tuesday’s victory was big from a confidence standpoint.
“Before we couldn’t beat them for some reason, and they’re not better than us,” she said. “It was just mental. Now we know we can beat them.”
Mercy (12-7) – No. 9 in the Kentucky Softball Coaches Association’s Top 25 – was playing its first game under new head coach Greg Meiners. He replaced Jon Pont, who stepped down Sunday because of a new job that made it difficult to spend the necessary time with the softball team.
Meiners admitted he was a bit nervous about his debut.
“I’ve been coaching travel ball for 10 years, but I had more butterflies today than I’ve had any time just because this is a different kind of deal,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough adjustment, but these kids love the game and they love each other.”
Mercy looked good early, taking a 1-0 lead in the first on Leigh Ellen Thomas’ RBI double and making it 2-0 when University of Louisville signee Jordan Vorbrink had an RBI single in the third.
But No. 20 Bullitt East (9-8) put together three straight hits in the bottom of the third for all the offense it would need against Thomas (7-6), the Mercy pitcher. Speedy leadoff hitter Shelby Maros slapped a double to left and scored on Emily Salyer’s single to center.
Renneisen then belted her two-run homer over the fence in left-center for a 3-2 lead.
“If we get her coming around,” Bullitt East coach Ricky Hoffman said, “it’s bad things for other teams.”
Bullitt East pitchers Loren Roby and Taylor Roby – no relation – secured the one-run lead. Senior Loren Roby (3-3) got the win, allowing seven hits and striking out three in four innings. Freshman Taylor Roby got the save, allowing one hit and striking out one in three innings.
Hoffman said he’s started using both pitchers during games the past couple of weeks in order to give opponents different looks.
“Loren is more of a spin pitcher, and Taylor is more of a power pitcher,” he said. “They work great against each other.”
Vorbrink and Sam Dykes both had two hits to lead Mercy’s eight-hit attack. Meiners said his players missed some signs Tuesday but expects them to become more comfortable with him as head coach as the season progresses.
“We’ve been struggling a little bit lately, but this is April and these kids know how to fight,” he said. “We’re making a lot of teams happy right now, but the year is not over.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and followed on Twitter @kyhighs.
MERCY 101 000 0 – 2 8 0
BULLITT EAST 003 000 x – 3 4 1
WP – L. Roby (3-3). LP – Thomas (7-6). SV – T. Roby. HR – Renneisen (BE). 2B – Maros (BE), Vorbrink (M), Thomas (M).