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Knight saves the day for Elkhart

ELKHART — Sophomore Anna Knight figures to have multiple roles this season for the Elkhart softball team.

On Friday, Knight was Elkhart's starting pitcher in a 10-0 win over Goshen.

In Saturday's 5-3 win over NorthWood, Knight played center field for six innings and picked up a save after getting the final out on a fly out to right field.

Knight came into the game against the Panthers with runners on first and second. On a 3-2 count, NorthWood's Brooklyn Davis flew out to Elkhart right fielder Laci Stimac.

"She's been really consistent for us," said first-year Elkhart coach Matt Walker about Knight's pitching on the year. "She's just around the plate and works quick. She keeps our defense engaged. That's how she worked (against Goshen). She's a real dependable kid."

A preseason injury set Knight back a bit for the upcoming season.

"She had a pinched nerve in her neck," Walker said. "Prior to a couple weeks ago, she hadn't done much throwing. She put a lot of time and effort in rehabbing."

Knight, who tossed a two-hitter against the RedHawks, walked, had an RBI groundout and flew out to right field in her at-bats against NorthWood.

Stimac started on the mound for the Lions and picked up the win after going four innings. She allowed two earned runs, four hits, struck out four and walked three.

Natalie Smith relieved Stimac in the fifth and went two and two-third innings and allowed one earned run, six hits, struck out one batter and walked two. Smith got out of a jam in the fifth, as NorthWood didn't score after putting runners on first and second with one out.

"Laci did well," Walker said. "She started losing her juice in the fourth inning. With our pitching we're going to have to go with two or three gals a game. I love how Nat (Smith) came in and just threw outs. That's what she does. She's been really effective for us. Like Anna, she keeps our defense engaged. Laci is starting to buy into that philosphy as well. We want our pitches to pump the strike zone and throw multiple pitches for strikes."

Elkhart committed no errors behind its three pitchers, while NorthWood finished with five errors, which led to four unearned runs for the Lions.

"We made too many errors at the beginning of the game and that cost us," said Panthers coach Mandy DeMien. "Defense hasn't been an issue for us. In our last game (a 4-1 win over South Bend Adams) we didn't have any errors at all."

NorthWood also struggled with its baserunning. The Panthers had two runners caught stealing and a more critical mistake running the bases in the seventh inning. With one out, Ana Beachy singled in Megan Yoder to cut the Lions' lead to 5-3.

But after the ball was thrown home on that hit to right-center, Beachy was retired on a rundown from first to second base.

"We play on turf (at home), so baserunning-wise we're a little bit more aggressive because the ball bounces and goes to the fence on turf. It's only the second time this year we've played on a dirt field. It's just a huge adjustment."

Elkhart jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first after getting an RBI single from Bailey Harris-Rodgers.

The Lions added an unearned run in the second to take a 2-0 lead and two more unearned runs in the third to take a 4-0 lead.

NorthWood responded with two runs in the fourth, with a run scoring on an RBI single from Payton Sears and a run coming in on a wild pitch.

Elkhart's final run of the game came in the fourth when Fionna Topolski was issued a bases-loaded walk. During that inning, the Lions had two runners thrown out at home. The run that scored was unearned.

Harris-Rodgers collected three hits in the game for Elkhart, while Deneaja Jackson added two. Fionna Topolski walked twice and singled.

"We came out of the gates early (offensively) and forced (NorthWood starting pitcher Ana Beachy) to throw a lot of pitches. We took her deep in the count, which is always a big thing for us. We forced her to throw multiple pitches. I thought mid-game we got a little impatient and were swinging at some stuff out of the zone.

"We like to play a lot of small ball and put the ball in play and force a defense to make plays. We were able to do that a little bit today too."

NorthWood got three hits from Megan Yoder and two each from Beachy and Sears.

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ELKHART 5, NORTHWOOD 3

NorthWood;000;200;1—;3;10;5

Elkhart;112;100;x—;5;8;0

Ana Beachy (L, 1-1); Laci Stimac (W, 1-2), Natalie Smith (5), Anna Knight (7, S)

NorthWood: Hits — Megan Yoder 3, Beachy 2, Payton Sears 2. 2B — Yoder 2, Chloe Davis.

Elkhart: Hits — Bailey Harris-Rodgers 3, Deneaja Jackson 2.

Records: NorthWood 2-4, Elkhart 3-3.