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HHS softball storms by Liberal

By CONOR NICHOLL
cnicholl@dailynews.net
Last week, the Hays High School softball team struggled through four games. The Indians defeated Larned 7-1 and 21-8, but then wasn’t very competitive in a pair of road losses, 4-1 and 14-3, to WAC rival Great Bend.
“We played pretty bad last week,” coach Abby Maska said. “It was just 36 hours of not very good softball for us.”
On Monday, the coaching staff challenged the Indians. Hays High had two doubleheaders this week, against struggling Liberal and Salina Central. Maska wanted the team to bounce back and use this week to get back on track with four run-rule victories.
The Indians completed the first half of the challenge when they rolled over winless Liberal, 15-0 and 22-0, in a doubleheader Tuesday afternoon at Bickle/Schmidt Sports Complex. Both games lasted three innings because of the mercy rule. Hays High improved to 13-3, 4-2 WAC, while Liberal dropped to 0-14.
“We are not going to create any illusions as to what we have this week as far as what our competition is going to be like,” Maska said.
“But if you want to be competitors and want to be a team that can take it to the next level and make it to the state tournament, you have to be able to do what’s expected of you and what is required of no matter what the competition.”
Junior Hannah Hearld retired all nine batters she faced in Game 1, and then sophomore Madison Prough allowed just one baserunner, on an error, in the second contest. HHS had six runs in the first, seven in the second and two in the third inning of the first game.
“Today was actually a pretty big day for our program,” Maska said. “…. We challenged them to come out and play six-inning doubleheaders, get it done in each game in three, and they did it, so it was good to see them respond in that way.”
Hays High struggled a little early in the first inning. Senior catcher Haley Wells walked to lead off the inning, and sophomore Albany Schaffer reached base after Liberal erred on a bunt attempt.
“We just try to get better every game, so this game, we were just trying to get our bats going,” Schaffer said.
A RBI groundout and popout followed before junior Kaylie Schoendaller struck out. But the ball got away from the catcher, and she reached first base. Then, the next five batters reached base.
“It was pretty much just hit for the next batter,” Schaffer said. “Just do your job, and let everybody else have a part in it.”
Hearld and Schoendaller hit homers on back-to-back pitches in the second inning. Hearld now leads the team with four homers and a team-leading 25 RBIs, and Schoendaller carries a team-best five homers and 17 RBIs. Sophomore third baseman Tessa Stickel hit a two-run homer in the first inning of Game 2 that scored Schaffer. Stickel collected three doubles, two in the first game.
Schaffer scored four runs in the second game and had three straight bunt singles.
“I really like to bunt,” Schaffer said.
Liberal started Sarah Bayouth both contests, a soft-tossing right-hander who was listed on the junior varsity.
“It’s nice to see them be able to put the ball out in play, and hit it hard, and that’s all pretty much you can ask for,” Maska said. “That’s hard on a day like today where our batters actually have to generate most of the power. Keeping them disciplined, letting the ball get to them, and to really explode on the ball to generate power — it’s nice to see a couple of balls go over the fence.”
Hays High plays host to Salina Central at 4 p.m. Thursday at Bickle/Schmidt Sports Complex.