RUSSELL — The Hammond softball team started and finished strong to pick up a 7-3 victory over Edwards-Knox in a Northern Athletic Conference West Division game Friday afternoon.
The Red Devils (7-1 overall, 6-0 division) scored four runs in the top of the first inning, taking advantage of two hits and two Cougar errors.
Zoey Cunningham led off reaching first when a Cougar infielder misplayed a pop up. She stole second and moved to third on an infield single by Karissa Donnelly. Mikayla Jones followed with a bunt, which led to another throwing error, scoring Cunningham and Donnelly.
“It allowed us to get four runs in and we ended with a lot of errors, but we fixed it up and we hit well when we needed to,” Cunningham said.
Sydney Tanner then doubled to score Jones for the third run and was replaced by courtesy runner Josephine Hodgdon. Hodgdon scored the fourth run of the inning on a passed ball.
Edwards-Knox (3-2) began to come back in the bottom of the second inning as pitcher Cadey Wheat led off with a double. Kiera Fountain replaced Wheat as a courtesy runner and scored on a single by Kayleigh Allen. Allen later scored on a hit from Kiana Hogle to cut Hammond’s lead to 4-2.
The Cougars struck again in the fourth inning when Wheat, again leading off, reached second on an infield throwing error.
She was again replaced by Fountain who scored on a fielder’s choice.
While the Cougars were trying to catch up, Hammond began to have trouble hitting Wheat, who retired 12 straight batters at one point and finished with nine strikeouts.
“We definitely came back,” said Cougars coach Lori Brewer. “It was definitely different than the last game we played them (a 16-3 loss on April 27), totally different mindset. They didn’t give up this time, which they did last time. They kept playing, kept fighting, one run here, two runs there. If we didn’t have that first inning it would have been a different ballgame.”
Hammond scored three runs in the top of the seventh for a more comfortable four-run advantage.
“They buckled down and started the bats going again (in the seventh), and I think it gave them confidence when they started (scoring) early on,” said Hammond coach Katina Dillon. “I told them I wanted them to at least get two (runs in the seventh) and they got three, so that helped us in the end. Our defense tightened up and you want to give your defense a bit of a cushion.”
Isabelle Woodcock led off the seventh with a single, followed by another hit from Ava Howie. Cunningham then singled to drive in both runners and scored herself on a fielder’s choice from Karissa Donnelly.
Cunningham finished 2-for-4 for the Red Devils. Tanner finished with six strikeouts.
“It made me feel more calm (pitching) when we got more hits,” Tanner said. “We were able to watch balls go by and we were making good contact. My screwball was working well and my curveball.”
Allen went 3-for-3, including a double, for the Cougars.
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