Cougars adjust, avenge loss to Lions in softball

THURMONT — Madison Ott made solid contact and started toward first base as the ball kept carrying and carrying out in right-center field.

Eventually, it spilled over the fence, sending the Catoctin softball dugout into joyous frenzy.

Ott, a freshman and the No. 9 hitter in the Cougars’ lineup, could hardly believe it herself.

“I didn’t think it went over at first until I saw everyone jumping up and down,” she said after hitting her first high school home run. “When I looked over at my parents, it made me really happy.”

Ott’s homer was part of an offensive explosion for Catoctin, which pounded 17 hits, including six homers, in a 21-4 home win over Walkersville, avenging an earlier loss to the Lions on April 9.

In that 5-4 setback, Walkersville pitcher Caroline Hinkelman handcuffed the Cougars for six scoreless innings with her normally effective selection of off-speed pitches.

But Catoctin (11-2) was ready for Hinkelman on this occasion. The team spent a good portion of Tuesday’s practice working on hitting off-speed stuff.

“We have been talking about mindset and approach, and the last time we played we really didn’t have the best approach,” Catoctin coach Jess Valentine said. “[Hinkelman] ate us up a little bit. I think, today, they came with a good mindset. They each had their individual way they were going to attack her pitching style, and, obviously, they did it well.”

All nine players in the Cougars’ lineup had at least one hit, led by junior Aubrie Courtney, who went 4-for-4 with four singles.

Senior Meghan Gray smashed a pair of home runs, including a grand slam in the bottom of the fourth, that all but ensured the 10-run rule was going to be invoked after Walkersville batted in the top of the fifth.

The Cougars scored seven runs in the first inning, six in the third and eight in the fourth.

Gray finished with three hits and seven RBIs. Aside from Gray and Ott, Kassidy Kreitz, the winning pitcher, Tatiana Owens and leadoff hitter Bralyn West homered for Catoctin.

West, Owens, Abby Shives and Raegan Miller all finished with two hits for the Cougars, who hope the approach at the plate will carry into Thursday’s showdown with Boonsboro, the other team that beat them earlier in the season.

“They have been working hard,” Valentine said. “They deserve a day like this.”

As for Walkersville (12-2), coach Randy Hinkelman summed up the Lions’ day succinctly when he said, “Sometimes, you are the windshield. Sometimes, you are the bug.”

Senior catcher Madison Lepeonka had a pair of hits, including a three-run homer in the top of the fourth, for Walkersville. Otherwise, the Lions scratched out a run on five hits against Kreitz, the Catoctin starter.

“At the end of the day, whatever happened today has no effect on tomorrow,” Hinkelman said. “You have to look past this and move on. They are a good team. They hit the ball, and we didn’t. At the end of the day, you have to execute.”