Lady Panthers find offense in win

PANAMA – Now that’s more like it.

After two games in which the Pine Valley Lady Panthers’ offensive attack had been, according to their coach, somewhat lacking, coach Danielle Arnone was glad to finally see it all come together on a bright and sunny Wednesday afternoon in Panama.

And boy, did it ever come together.

Pine Valley knocked out 14 hits, drew six walks and tallied more runs in this, the Lady Panthers’ third game, than they had plated in their previous two combined, on the way to a 14-10 victory over CCAA Division 3 foe Panama at Deb Palmer Field.

“We’d been struggling a little bit with our batting lately,” Arnone said, “(Mostly) because we hadn’t been able to face live pitching as much as we’d like.

“They needed (a game like this), and I needed it, too,” she added with a laugh. “So we’re excited and hope we can keep it going (into our next game).”

Pine Valley, which improved to a perfect 3-0 overall and 2-0 in league following the victory, never trailed, and took a commanding 6-0 lead by the end of the first inning.

That advantage would slim at times – to two runs, 6-4, in the third and then to three runs, 12-9, by the end of the sixth – but each time the Lady Panthers would find a way to re-extend their cushion; thanks mostly to strong showings by their 6-7-8-9 hitters.

Led by No. 6 batter Laural Killock, who started the scoring with a two-run single in the first and finished with three hits in five at-bats to go with three RBIs and three runs scored, the last four hitters in the Pine Valley order connected on nine of the team’s 14 total hits and scored nine of its 14 runs.

Along with Killock, Justine Chitward went 2-for-3 with three runs scored, Cassie Tingue delivered a 3-for-5 performance with two runs scored and an RBI and Aleah Fancher drove in three during the five-run fourth with a drive off the left field fence and scored once.

“We’ve had trouble making our lineup because we don’t feel we have a top or bottom (of the order),” assistant coach Mark Mansfield said. “All of our girls have the potential to be very good hitters, and you saw that today.”

Added Arnone, “And we let them know that, too. The order does not say anything about them as hitters.”

Lady Panthers’ starting pitcher, Alex Bentham, meanwhile, did just enough to keep the Panama offense from taking the lead.

The right-handed sophomore, who faltered in the middle innings when she allowed three Panama runs in the third, two in the fourth and three more in the sixth, picked up the victory after surrendering 10 runs (seven earned) on 10 hits and three walks over seven innings pitched. She also fanned seven.

“With the way we started out, I was nervous,” Panama coach Tammy Hosier said. “But we stuck around. We have the bats, we have some really good hitters, we’re just very young and very inexperienced.”

Nine of Panama’s 14 players are in grades 8 through 10.

Three of Panama’s more veteran players – Carly Abbate, a junior, and Kirsten Green and Jessica Leonard, both seniors – provided much of the offense for the youthful group.

Abbate, who also pitched and sent down nine on strikes, went 2-for-4 with three runs scored and an RBI, Green drilled a bases-loaded triple in the sixth that slimmed the deficit (at the time) to just three runs, 12-9, and Leonard went 3-for-5 with a pair of runs scored and an RBI.

Panama, which fell to 2-2 overall and 0-2 in league, will be looking to pick up that first Division 3 victory in a makeup game at Forestville on Friday.