Tuscola softball bounces back from tough loss with dominant victory

Mar. 21—After a tough conference-opening loss to Franklin, the Tuscola softball bounced back in a big way — scoring a 15-1 win over North Henderson on Tuesday.

"I'm really proud of the girls," Tuscola coach Lindsay Markos said. "They worked hard. They were consistent offensively and defensively. It was a good win."

Less than a week before the big win over the Knights, the Lady Mountaineers struggled on the road with a very good Franklin team to open up Mountain 7 play.

The Panthers took the game 20-10 in a high-scoring affair.

"We talked about overcoming some of those challenges. When we were at Franklin, we got to hit first and I said we were going to score first. We scored five runs in that first inning and they were a little stunned," Markos said. "The score of that game didn't show how good we really played."

The score of Tuesday's game did help to illustrate just how good this Tuscola team is, however.

"We just needed to rally and prove ourselves and show this is how we can play," Markos said.

Overcoming those challenges can be tough, particularly with a young team. The Mounties have just three juniors and two sophomores on the team. On most nights, they're starting five or six underclassmen.

"It matters. I've told these girls it doesn't matter how old you are or what grade you're in, you're a leader. Their ability to play this game absolutely shows," Markos said. "They look like they have the experience to compete with anyone no matter how old they are."

The Lady Mountaineers started red hot, scoring seven runs in the bottom of the first inning.

"It's big," Markos said. "It shows them who we are and what we can do, but it also gives us a little bit of confidence as to who we are as a team."

Freshman Alexis Markos got things going by drawing a lead-off walk. Senior Allison Setzer followed that up with a single, and junior Addi Sampson loaded the bases with a walk.

A single from junior Kenzie Cook gave Tuscola their first two runs of the night, scoring Markos and Setzer.

Sophomore Sydney Snowden was hit in the next at-bat, loading the bases once again.

That was followed by sophomore Madisyn Brooks drawing a walk and pushing the third run of the game in.

Sophomore Kendall Williamson stepped up next and lined the ball into center field, earning herself a three-RBI triple and putting the Mounties up 6-0.

Senior Karsen Cherry wrapped up the first inning scoring with a single that plated Williamson from third.

Throughout the game, it was clear the Mounties players were loose and having fun — a mentality that often leads to teams playing their best ball.

"Hitting is where you have fun," Markos said.

Neither team scored in the second — the only inning that the Mounties didn't find their way across the plate.

In the bottom of the third, Brooks recorded a lead-off double, followed by a single from Williamson.

After a groundout but the first out of the inning on the board, sophomore Kinzie Messer stepped to the plate with runners on the corners.

Messer battled to a 3-2 count, but the sixth pitch of the plate appearance was the one she was looking for.

The sophomore took her swing and smoked a line drive to center field, with the ball sneaking over the fence for a three-run home run.

"Little Kinzie works hard. She's a great hitter. She's tiny but she's mighty. When I saw that ball in the air, I was thinking that's not high enough, but then it was gone," Markos said. "She's a leadoff hitter for a reason. She has the wheels. She has the power."

Messer is one of the many underclassmen performing at a high level for the Lady Mounties.

"Her being a sophomore and doing what she's doing offensively and defensively is amazing," Markos said.

Four straight walks after the home run scored an 11th run for Tuscola, furthering their lead.

In the bottom of the fourth, with the bases loaded, Sampson was hit by a pitch to score a free run.

Cook was up next, and she also wore a pitch, allowing another run to score.

An error let Snowden reach in the next at-bat and score a 14th run before Brooks drew another walk to make it 15-0.

In the top of the fifth, Tuscola switched their pitching around and North Henderson was able to sneak one run in, but it was too little, too late. The game ended after four and a half innings due to the 10-run rule.

The win served as a major return to form for the Lady Mountaineers.

"We really just have to work through some of these bumps and find the consistency pitching, offensively and defensively. That was our main focus," Markos said. "We're never comfortable. There's always something to work on and something to improve."

Aside from the hitting, which hasn't been a major issue for most of the year, the pitching and defense stepped up and rebounded from a tough performance against Franklin.

Sampson got the start in the circle, going four innings and allowing just one hit. The junior only recorded just one strikeout, showing how strong the defense was behind her.

"I told them it doesn't matter who we are playing, we have to play our way," Markos said. "We have a lot of girls who have played together for a long time even though we're a pretty young team. There's time we've seen what our defense can do to back that pitcher up and that's what we have to do."

The Mountaineers followed their dominant win up with an even more dominant victory on Wednesday. Tuscola took a trip to East Henderson, beating the Eagles 16-0.

"We need to keep pushing through and keep that rolling into the next game. When a mistake does happen or something doesn't go our way, we still have to fight and work through it," Markos said. "We just have to keep doing the little things and execute and finish the way that I know we can play."