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HHS softball sweeps Dodge

By NICK McQUEEN

nmcqueen@dailynews.net

After a 1-3 start where the Hays High School softball team committed 16 errors through four games, Indian coach Abby Maska knew a few changes were needed.

A team that starts three freshmen and a sophomore, Hays High went through some early-season jitters, but Maska said the coaching staff needed to make some changes in their own approach after the rough start.

Instead of focusing on the bad, the Indian coaches were more honed in on the positives. If Tuesday's doubleheader sweep of Western Athletic Conference foe Dodge City is any indication, the change in attitude paid off. The Indians had just one error in an 11-1 (5 innings), 14-5 sweep at Dusty Glassman Ball Park.

"We've just been really focusing in practice on eliminating errors," Maska said. "The girls have just been playing a little bit timid, and a little bit scared.

"Some of that is just nerves because we are so young," she added.

Hays High (3-3, 2-0 WAC) was coming off a doubleheader at Pratt where the Indians had 11 errors in two losses.

"We wanted to have more positive energy (in practice)." Maska said. "Get the kids communicating more, and give them opportunities to play to win something.

"Instead of there being consequences for mistakes, we were focused more on doing things the right way and rewarding them," she added. "That paid off a little more. They were a little more loose today, and playing to win. They competed well."

While the Indians have yet to see the quality pitching they will see later in the season, offense has not been an issue. The bats were strong again Tuesday as Hays High posted 24 hits through two games.

In the opener, after freshman Madison Prough fell in a 1-0 hole, the Indians batted around in the first with four hits and took a 5-1 lead. Mixed with six errors for Dodge City, the Indians cruised to the run-rule. Sophomore Kaylie Schoendaller ended the game with a walk-off solo home run to left center, her second hit of the game. Senior Shea Briggs also collected a pair of hits, and scored two runs in the leadoff spot.

"We still have some big bats leftover (from last season's 5A state team)," Maska said. "Even some girls from last year that were in the bottom behind big hitters are able to move up, and they're showing what they can do at the plate."

Maska used junior Julie Balzer as a good example. In the nightcap, Balzer went 2-for-5, scored twice and drove in a first-inning run. She was fifth in the order behind Schoendaller.

"She's doing a great job moving up in the lineup, and the young ones have pretty nice swings," Maska said. "We haven't seen the toughest pitching yet, so I don't feel like we've been tested too much."

Senior Katelyn Schumacher had several loud outs in the first game, including an RBI sacrifice fly, but then had three hits in the nightcap and drove in three of the 14 runs.

Hays High had 15 hits, and gave the win to sophomore Jenna Luebbers, who pitched four innings in relief of Prough. Prough took the Game 1 win.

Maska was pleased with the sweep, but more impressed with how the Indians played defensively. The lone error came in the first inning of Game 2, resulting in a Dodge City run.

"We're trying to work on every aspect of the game, but the real focus so far has been defense," Maska said. "(Prough) did a really nice job. She worked ahead of batters more than she has.

"It's hard to know, especially first game at home, what you'll get on the mound," Maska added.

Prough pitched all five innings of Game 1, and then three innings of Game 2. Luebbers is 1-1 while Prough moved to 2-2.

Hays High is off until they face Salina South at home April 12 at Dusty Glassman.