TMP softball comes up clutch in doubleheader sweep of Colby
Melissa Schoepf could sense the nervousness in her young TMP-Marian softball players leading up to the team's first game in two years.
Several Monarchs were making their varsity debuts, and they ended up finding themselves in two down-to-the-wire games on Tuesday against Colby at TMP.
But TMP came through in the clutch in the late innings of the pressure-packed contests, making for an exhilarating return to the diamond.
The Monarchs rallied for a 4-3 win in nine innings in the opener, then outlasted the Eagles in an 18-15 slugfest in Game 2.
More than anything, Schoepf said she wanted her players to soak up the experience.
"We talked about being thankful for getting to play and being thankful for our time out here," she said. "The girls had so many nerves, even (the day before the game), I could tell. A lot of them, this is their first time in a varsity experience and you could just see the tension.
"We just reminded them to take a deep breath and have fun, because this is a game, and we're just thankful to be here."
Seniors Emilee Augustine, Kyleigh Allen and Sophia Coulter all have significant varsity experience for TMP, but most of the other players are new to varsity.
"They need to get in and see how things are done," Schoepf said. "We are very young, except we've got Kyleigh and Emilee and Sophie, which is a lot of experience that (the other players) need to learn from."'
"Missing that year, you miss out on a year of development, so we're playing catch-up just like everybody else," Schoepf added. "But I keep telling them, 'We're not going to play like sophomores. We're going to play at a higher level.' I think they're up to the challenge and I think they'll respond."
The Monarchs certainly responded to the challenge on Tuesday.
In the opener, Colby tied it up at 2 in the top of the seventh on Kamrie Miller's solo home run. Shali Showalter's homer in the eighth then put the Eagles in front.
Colby, one out away from closing out the Monarchs in the bottom eighth, opted to intentionally walk Augustine with the bases empty. Coulter then drew a walk to keep the game alive before Sophie Allen doubled to left to plate Augustine for the game-tying run.
The Eagles went scoreless in the top of the ninth and TMP started the bottom frame with an Alexa Ryersee walk.
Jessica Herrman then laid down a perfectly-placed bunt down the first base side for a single, and the Eagles made a throwing error trying to get Ryersee at third base, allowing her to score and give the Monarchs the walk-off win.
"We always tell them put the ball in play, because they have to field it, they have to throw it and somebody's got to catch it — three things have to go right there," Schoepf said. "(Herrman) laid down a great bunt, and we caught them not at third base, and that made them make a mistake. That's what we've got to do, put the pressure on."
Schoepf liked the Monarchs' at-bats late in the game but said it took them awhile to adjust to Miller in the circle.
"We've got to take make adjustments quicker," she said. "After we had gone through two times we were still kind of not making the adjustments we needed to at the plate. We kind of waited late in the game to be able to do that, and I'd like to see us be able to do that earlier in the game. One time through, make your adjustments and see what you need to do at your next at-bat."
But TMP had no trouble making the adjustments in the second game, which saw the two teams combine for 40 hits — 21 by the Monarchs and 19 by Colby.
"I told them, 'We're all going to put the ball in play. It comes down to who doesn't make the mistakes,' " Schoepf said.
The game was locked at 13 in the middle of the fifth before TMP grabbed the lead on an RBI groundout from Ryersee. TMP then put up four runs in the sixth, fueled by an RBI double from Halle Dreiling and a two-run triple by Augustine.
Colby plated two runs in the top of the seventh. They had the bases loaded with one out after an intentional walk of Miller, but back-to-back pop-ups ended the game.
Kyleigh Allen earned the win in the circle in both games. She tossed all nine innings in Game 1, allowing three runs on eight hits with two walks and nine strikeouts. She threw six innings of relief in Game 2.
"I would take a hundred Kyleigh Allens because she's just a gamer," Schoepf said. "She's a pressure player and she wants the ball."
Schoepf said she expects big things in the future out of sophomore pitcher Madison Augustine, who started the second game.
"Madison's going to be a great pitcher, I have no doubt," Schoepf said. "Lot of nerves. It's a lot of learning when you first come in at this age. I have no doubt she's going to be fine."
Hannah Garcia and Kyleigh Allen all had four hits in the second game while Emilee Augustine and Coulter had three each.
TMP will be back at home on Thursday for a 4 p.m. doubleheader against Holcomb.
"I wouldn't trade this, to be out here on the field and be with these kids," Schoepf said. "That was heartbreaking last year to walk away from them. We had a lot of emotions today, and we had a lot of emotions when that happened last year.
"So I'm not taking any of this for granted. Win or lose, I'm just happy to be here with them."