As the annual roster surgery for Lambert softball took place before this season, Lady Longhorns head coach Brooks Youngblood devoted extra time in practice to the team’s defense. He knew there would be two freshman starters and a few returning ones switched to different full-time positions, some perhaps unfamiliar to them during travel season. Cohesion might take time.
But, apparently, not too much time, the latest evidence a 1-0 victory against rival West Forsyth in a Region 5-7A game Monday at home. Lambert committed just one error, and ended the game with a head’s up play from freshman center fielder Lindsey Nelson to keep the Lady Longhorns unscored upon in region play.
“We practiced [defense] a lot,” Youngblood said. “I think they’re feeling comfortable in their spots and starting to execute better defensively.”
Clinging to a one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh, Lambert pitcher Kassidy Krupit appeared to pitch into trouble for just the second time all game. Emily Kraft hit a one-out single, and was then lifted for a courtesy runner. An out later, Krupit walked Carlie Behan. It was the best scenario West (4-7, 1-2) could have hoped for: runners on and the Lady Wolverines back at the top of the lineup.
Except on ball four of Behan’s walk, West’s courtesy runner broke for second base. Lambert catcher Rachel Cowart’s throw flew into center field, and the courtesy runner took a few strides toward third. But Nelson was in position for such mistakes and caught the courtesy runner trying to get back to second to end the game.
“In a good position at the right time,” Youngblood said.
Nelson’s play preserved another shutout for Krupit, who flummoxed the Lady Wolverines with her blend of power and a lethal changeup. She scattered five hits and two walks and struck out six. West had a runner in scoring position just twice.
Even after a 28-pitch first inning, which started with a 10-pitch at-bat from West leadoff hitter Bailey Concatto, Krupit was unwavering.
“She’s pitching like our ace,” Youngblood said. “That’s what she is right now. She wants it. She’s motivated to have a breakout year.”
Lambert’s No. 9 hitter Graham Bryant gave Kruput the only run she needed in the top of the second. Skylar Aledia and Catie Rose Hays began the inning with consecutive singles. Nelson loaded the bases with another single.
Bryant then ripped a 1-2 pitch into right field to score Aledia and put Lambert up 1-0.
Lambert produced other opportunities. The Lady Longhorns had nine hits, led by Brooke Miller (2-for-4) and Hays (2-for-3), but stranded runners in scoring position in the third, fifth, sixth and seventh innings.
They had West pitcher Hannah Guthrie to contend with, after all, who was nearly as effective as Krupit, scattering those nine hits along with two walks while striking out seven.
“She seemed in control tonight,” West head coach Justin Rickett said. “She used all her pitches. … She’s coming along. Up to this point, that’s as good as she’s pitched.”