With several players set to take on bigger roles for the Thomas More Prep-Marian softball team this season, TMP coach Melissa Schoepf could sense some nervousness from the Monarchs in Tuesday's season-opening doubleheader at home against Dodge City.
"I thought when we came out, you could just see that we were tense," Schoepf said. "I think there were a lot of nerves, with people stepping up and filling spots that we haven't had to fill for a long time."
Despite the season-opening jitters, TMP also showed signs of potential. The Monarchs took 6-4 and 5-3 losses but fought back to give themselves a chance late in both games.
"After the first two innings of that first game, you could see that they started settling in and calming down a little bit," Schoepf said. "But before that, you could tell in their body language that they didn't want to mess up and they were just nervous. But I'm hoping, now that we've all seen a varsity game and they know what it's like and what to expect, that we can kind of settle in from here on out and do what we need to do."
After falling behind early, the Monarchs had opportunities to tie it up in the seventh innings of both contests but suffered from some bad hitting luck.
With TMP trailing by two runs with runners at first and second, Sophia Mickelson-Coulter hit a line drive at the left fielder to end game one.
In the nightcap, TMP had runners in scoring position with two outs in the bottom of the seventh when Emilee Augustine laced a ball down the right field line that went just foul. She then popped out to first base to end the game.
"For the most part, they were making good contact — line drives unfortunately right at people," Schoepf said. "I was pleased with the swings, but we got to be able to execute a little better and bring the short game into it. We weren't real successful the times we did have bunts and slaps on and being able to move the ball where we wanted it to go."
TMP gave up three runs to Dodge City in the first inning of the first game but answered back with two runs off a double from Anna Gottschalk in the bottom of the frame. Dodge City plated two more runs in the second and went up 6-2 with another run in the top of the fourth.
The Monarchs cut the deficit to two in the fifth after a sac fly from Gottschalk and an RBI groundout by Augustine but couldn't draw any closer.
In the second game, TMP evened the score at 1 in the second after Augustine tripled and was driven in by a groundout from Brianna Romme. However, the Red Demons took control in the middle innings to open up a 5-1 lead.
Lexi Gottschalk came up with an RBI single in the sixth and Bailey Lacy also singled in a run in the seventh to help keep alive chances for a rally.
Lacy went the distance for the Monarchs in both games, giving up six hits in the first game and eight in the second. She finished the day with a combined 15 strikeouts.
"She settled in there and she made some nice pitches," Schoepf said. "She's doing what we need her to do. I felt like she got stronger as it went on, which is a really good thing to see because we don't want it to go the other way where she's getting tired. She did a nice job."
Schoepf said the first two games served as a good barometer for the Monarchs, who will play in the Sylvan Grove Triangular next Tuesday.
"We just talked about how we need to self evaluate. What can we do better?" Schoepf said. "I think we all know there's things we can improve on individually. We were ready to just get out and play and see where we're at and where we can go."
The Red Demons (2-0) relied on solid pitching from Raemie and Reagan Lopp. Raemie earned the win in game one while Reagan notched the victory in the nightcap.