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Softball: Resilient Longhorns finding rhythm early in season
Colleen Thorson
Lambert senior Colleen Thorson beats the throw to first base Tuesday during the Longhorns' 4-2 win against Blessed Trinity. - photo by David Roberts

Hannah Cole camped under the fly ball and waited for it to fall into her glove.

The bases were loaded, and Blessed Trinity had already scored on the previous play, building a 2-0 lead.

Victoria Spencer waited at third base, ready to test Cole’s arm.

Big mistake.

Cole caught the ball and fired a one-hopper to catcher Sydney Chung. Chung handled a tricky short hop and tagged out Spencer for the double play.

Lambert tied the game in the bottom of the frame, then added two more runs the following inning, beating Blessed Trinity 4-2 on Tuesday.

Cole might be a freshman, but along with Kirsten Cowart and Madison Todd, she’s part of a talented outfield that opposing teams are learning not to test.

“She has a cannon and Maddy (Todd) can throw. I like their arms,” Lambert head coach Brooks Youngblood said. “We’re just working on hitting cuts and not being too aggressive. They can throw girls out, for sure. It’s a lot of fun when that happens.”

Cowart earned the start in the circle for the Longhorns, giving up two runs – one earned – over four innings in the win, striking out two batters and walking four.

Cowart continued her hot start at the plate, going 3 for 4 with three RBIs. Courtney Sauer drove in the Longhorns’ other run with an RBI triple in the fourth inning.

Lambert’s lineup featured more underclassmen (5) than upperclassmen (4) Tuesday, including a pair of freshmen. That’s been routine this season for Lambert, which graduated nine seniors – including seven starters – last year.

Sophomores Sauer, Emma Harwood and Katelyn Boyette finished 3 for 8 with two runs and an RBI against Blessed Trinity. Cole and Hannah Cornetto – both freshmen – hit fourth and fifth, respectively, against the Titans.

“They have a lot of power, and they always have a really good mindset when going up to hit,” Colleen Thorson said of Cole and Cornetto. “I know that as a team we can always count on them to do what they need to do to get the job done.”

Courtney Sauer
Lambert junior Courtney Sauer delivers a pitch Tuesday during the Longhorns' 4-2 win against Blessed Trinity. - photo by David Roberts
Thorson is the only senior on Lambert’s team, the lone holdover from the Longhorns’ 2017 Elite Eight squad.

“The environment definitely is different,” Thorson said. “We’re definitely having fun out here, and it’s fun to grow as a team and just see everyone take on new roles and stuff like that.”

Thorson was at the heart of Lambert’s third-inning rally Tuesday.

After Boyette led off the inning with a single, Youngblood looked to his speedy leadoff hitter to lay down a sacrifice bunt and help the Longhorns chip away at the 2-0 deficit.

Thorson did, but she took off toward first base and beat the throw. Heads-up baserunning allowed Boyette to take third base on the throw, leaving runners on the corners. Cowart doubled in both runners two batters later.

Sauer pitched two innings of scoreless relief, giving up four hits and striking out three batters. Cole handled the seventh inning and needed just 13 pitches to strike out the side.

Lambert lost its first six games of the season, falling to perennial contenders such as North Gwinnett and Buford, as well as last year’s Class 7A state champion Mountain View.

“That was brutal. I told the girls you can’t read into that too much,” Youngblood said. “We’re just trying to figure out who we are, trying to figure out a lineup, who’s going to be in what position. I think it did the job, with the quick start in the region schedule.”

Since then, the Longhorns have won six of seven games, their only loss coming against North Forsyth on Saturday.

North beat Lambert 11-0 in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader, outhitting the Longhorns 15-2.

Lambert then rallied to beat the Raiders in the second game, 9-8, thanks in part to a pair of home runs by Cole and one from Cowart.

“This group, I think things go their way a lot because it’s a good group. They work hard, they keep fighting until the end of the game – like Saturday, that North Forsyth game,” Youngblood said. “They beat us 11-0, we come out and we get down 3-1, 4-1, we jump back up and get a little bit more runs, then we go down again, then we take the lead, then we tie it up. They just keep fighting. They don’t let anything faze them, so I like what I’m seeing.”

It’s a rebuilding year, sure; but Youngblood knows anything can happen.

“We play Etowah here tomorrow, and that’ll kind of get us set for South on Thursday – big game in terms of the top of region standings,” Youngblood said. “Then we get them against next Tuesday for a doubleheader. In the next week or so, things will start to shake out a little bit. They’re going to be up there, North is going to be up there when all is said and done, and I just hope we can compete with those two.”