SANDY CREEK — When Olivia Pappa pitches she tries to focus solely on the catcher’s glove. No matter what the situation is, her main goal is to simply hit the spots that catcher Hailey McGrew presents with her mitt.
Pappa did a pretty good job of that Thursday as the Comets won 7-4 over the Lyme Indians in a Frontier League crossover softball game.
For the first three innings against the Indians, Pappa hit those spots and sent more than half of the batters back to dugout with a “K” next to their name in the scorebook.
But as the game went on, Lyme (2-2 overall, 2-2 league) adjusted and started to make contact, putting Sandy Creek’s defense to work. The Comets responded, with terrific plays throughout the infield, including a diving catch by first baseman Riley Dowlearn followed by a toss to first to double up the runner, thus ending the game.
Sandy Creek (4-0, 2-0) is relying on its defense much more heavily this year than in years past.
“It’s huge this season and we knew coming into the season that with (former all-star) Carly Stoker leaving we weren’t going to have that dominant force on the mound and we really were going to need to be able to celebrate 21 outs every game,” Sandy Creek coach Katie Soluri said. “In the past with Carly out, defense would only pick up maybe eight or nine outs, maybe some games only six outs. So the fact that our defense is coming up with big outs and coming up with the 21 outs is huge.”
Hannah Dasno was responsible for a few of those plays at third. Having a reliable defense helps to ease the pressure on Pappa.
“We’ve been working on our defense a lot because I’m pitching now and it’s not Carly anymore,” Pappa said. “So there is going to be more hits in the field, so defense is definitely something we’ve improved a lot on.”
Also easing the pressure was a six-run third inning that put Comets up 7-0.
It was Kaitlyn Weston’s roughest inning on the mound for Lyme. The Comets recorded six hits, two of which were for extra bases, and almost all came early in the at-bat.
Marley Yerdon tripled to drive in two runs that inning.
“A lot of pitchers try to get ahead of us and we don’t let that happen,” Marley Yerdon said. “We let our offense shine.”
Weston used her change-up to force a lot of swings and misses so the Comets swung early in the account to diminish their chances of seeing one.
“That was one of the discussions we had, we came back and someone said ‘hey with two strikes you’re getting a change-up’ and my response was let’s not get to two strikes,” Soluri said. “Let’s make sure that when she comes to get ahead of us we put the ball in play.”
Despite being in a hole, Lyme slowly made its way back into the game, scoring once in the fourth, twice in fifth and once in the sixth.
Weston’s ability to bounce back after the third inning kept Lyme in position to make a comeback.
“I just settled down and knew I had to throw strikes so that’s what I did,” Weston said. “You just have to keep your head in there and you have to know what you have to do. I just threw as much as I could and as best as I could.”
She recorded nine straight outs to close out the game.