Softball: Panthers power past K-M
PINE ISLAND — Behind the Pine Island dugout sits the hard work the Panthers' coaches have set up in hopes of boosting the team's bats.
“It's an area we really wanted to improve and we thought, 'All right, we need to think outside the box. What are we going to do to do that?'” said head coach Kim Jones. “So we're going to have these hitting stations so we can get a lot of girls through and get a lot of reps.”
There are tire stations to work on accuracy, boards for balance and a heavy bag to improve power.
“They've been out since nine in the morning working on it,” said Pine Island third baseman Katelyn Kennedy. “It was a little weird the first time.”
After Thursday's 6-3 Hiawatha Valley League victory over Kasson-Mantorville, the Panthers couldn't argue with the results of the new hitting station. The team finished with eight hits and four walks.
Over its first three games, Pine Island has outscored its opponents 34-4.
“That was really fun to come out to bat and get some runs on the scoreboard for our energy, our momentum and our attitude,” Jones said. “I loved coming out that way.”
Josselyn Lindahl started the Panthers' offense with a leadoff triple, which started a three-run opening frame. Lindahl came home on a Mya Polzer single, then Katelyn brought home two with a one-out single to left field.
“We were talking about it all week. We knew it would be a tough one,” said Katelyn, who went 2-for-3 with three RBI. “We had to come ready to field, and we worked a lot on our hitting. That really showed tonight.”
Pine Island added a pair of runs in the third thanks to back-to-back RBI singles from Emilie Rucker and Katelyn. The Panthers' final run came in the fourth after a single by Autumn Pin brought home Polzer.
“I just stuck to our plan and just put the ball in play,” said Pin, who reached base on all four of her at-bats after getting beaned twice while collecting a hit and a walk.
But the KoMets have been a top-tier team in the HVL for a reason. And in the sixth, K-M started mounting a comeback a two-run inning. With runners at second and third base, Pine Island got out of trouble thanks to a running catch by Polzer to end the inning.
“She's fabulous with her speed,” Jones said. “That catch she had, that was a game changer. (The outfield) earned their money today.”
In the circle, starting pitcher Bridget Kennedy went the distance for the Panthers, tallying six strikeouts and no walks while allowing nine hits.
“Bridget's been doing great. We have so much hope in her,” Katelyn said. “She really carries us. And our catcher (Haley Bauman) is doing all the game-calling and she's doing a fantastic job.”
On Tuesday, Pine Island (3-0, 3-0 HVL) will head to Byron.
“Our goal is we want to stay competitive and stay in every game,” Jones said. “Even after a win, I still got notes that we'll be working on. It's nice to have that win but now we have to go after it again next week. We can't look past anybody.”