The St. James softball team (8-6) hosted Bourbon on Wednesday, Sept. 13. The Lady Tigers got off to a bit of a slow start, but string of bunts in the third inning jump started the offense on their way to a 16-1 win.
The Lady Tiger offense struggled to take advantage of some wild pitching in the first two innings, scoring one run in each of those innings. Kayla Hamilton stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded in the first and grounded out to the pitcher. Fortunately for St. James, the Bourbon pitcher elected to throw to first instead of home and a run crossed the plate for the Lady Tigers. They then scored in the second after Bourbon attempted to pick off Taylor Brennan at first, which opened the door for Alyssa Doris to stroll home for their second run.
In the meantime, Hamilton was pitching a gem on the mound. After two shutout innings, she buckled a bit in the top of the third. She got the first two batters out, one of which was on a strikeout, she let up her first hit of the game. After that hit, she had some control issues, walking the next three batters to end her shutout. Head coach Brad Purvis came out to the mound to settle her down and it worked, as she struck out the next batter on just three pitches to get out of the inning.
Holding onto a 2-1 lead, St. James opened the floodgates in the bottom of the third. Mikaela Donnelly led off the inning with walk. Hamilton followed her by dropping down a bunt. The throw to first went wild and Donnelly rounded the bases for a run. Hannah Shasserre then did the exact same thing, dropping down a bunt and forcing a wild throw at first on the way to another run. Shasserre then went to third on a passed ball and scored on a bunt single by Doris. The bunts didn't end there, as Rachel Lucas also had a bunt single to drive in a run.
The series of bunt singles gave St. James a 6-1 lead and forced a pitching change for Bourbon. The reliever got the next two Lady Tigers out, but couldn't quite get out of the inning without allowing St. James to add to the lead. Lucas swiped second and third before Scout Paulus walked and stole second herself. Paulus was caught in a pickle after a groundout, but she stayed alive long enough to allow Lucas to score, pushing the lead to 7-1.
Hamilton pitched another perfect inning with a pair of strikeouts before the Lady Tigers added to their lead in the fourth. St. James put the game out of reach with a two run triple by Shasserre. Two runs then scored on wild pitches to push the lead to 11-1. Brennan then drove in a run with a single before Abbie Walton roped a double into left field for two more runs. Donnelly then ended the game with an RBI single, as a second run scored on an error to end the game by mercy rule 16-1.
Hamilton ended the game with four innings pitched, one earned run on one hit, five walks and nine strikeouts. Hamilton pitched 11 innings in the span of two days, striking out 23 batters over that span. Coach Purvis has loved what he's seen out of his senior pitcher as the Lady Tigers broke out of their slump.
"She threw seven innings the night before, threw a lot of pitches, I know a little fatigue is probably going to be there, but she did a great job," said Purvis after the game. "I compliment her because on a lot of those 3-1, 3-2 counts, she won the at bat and that's what we're looking for. She did a great job. She's put together a good string of games here and hopefully it continues."
The St. James defense has also played much better behind Hamilton in the last two games. With the number of strikeouts she's had, it takes some pressure off of that defense and helps them play a more relaxed game. It showed on Wednesday, because St. James didn't have a single error in the game.
"(Hamilton's strikeouts) can kind of ease the defense there," said coach Purvis. "I do feel like teams can go through fielding slumps just like hitting slumps, so maybe this is a bit of a refresher for us, but we know that we can't just depend on the strikeout to bail us out every game either. We're gonna have to bring the defense each and every night."
St. James has a tough slate ahead of them, so coach Purvis was glad to see his batters and pitching getting on the same page in the last few games. The Lady Tigers played St. Clair on Thursday night, but results were not available at press time. They'll host Newburg, Borgia and Glendale for their home tournament on Saturday, Sept. 15.
"Obviously, that's what's going to work for us, putting it all together," said Purvis. "I thought last night at New Haven to this point in the season we actually did that. We put it all together, the offense, the defense, we were up, we were talking, a lot of energy in our team. That's what I told them tonight, maybe we came out a little bit flat, I get it, it was a late night last night, but you get to play ball here and you only get to play so many of these so don't overlook (Bourbon). We are a better team. If we come out energized, we're up talking, we seem to play a lot better."