Cardinals are 3-2 after making playoffs last year
Maybe it was the cold or the wind. Maybe it was just one of those days. Certainly, Hoggard was better than its record.
Whatever the case, Jacksonville, which had won three of its first four games after a historic softball season a year ago, was on the wrong side of the a 14-4 decision Wednesday against the 4-A Vikings, who had lost four of their first five games – two by a single run.
While Hoggard scored in all but one inning – including 3 runs in the first and 5 in the seventh – the Cardinals managed just a single run in four different innings after scoring 36 runs in their first four games. JHS was also hitting .349 coming in.
But against freshman Icess Tresvik, JHS struck out 13 times – just 4 more K’s than the Cardinals had coming in.
And the Cardinals matched the number of errors (6) that they had in their first four games.
Junior Kalyn Moore, who played shortstop on this day but also pitches, vowed the Cardinals, who play host to West Craven on Friday, would rebound.
“It was one of those days. I don’t think some people’s heads were in the game,” said Moore, who is hitting .500 with 5 RBIs. “Tomorrow in practice we’ll definitely work on what we need to work on and come back Friday because I think this kind of angers us a little bit that we lost like this. It’ll drive us to win the next game.”
The Cardinals are coming off a season in which they finished 9-12 and made the NCHSAA playoffs in fast pitch softball for the first time. JHS made the playoffs in softball only one other time – in 1994, when the sport was slow pitch.
“We definitely want to improve on that,” Moore said. “This year we’re coming together more as a team and we’re having a lot more fun playing. Instead of getting down on ourselves after a mistake, we all talk each other up and come back into the game and go harder.
“And we all really want it this year and we all want to be better than last year. I think that’s really driving our team.”
JHS also the most wins in 2017 in at least a decade under new coach Chelsea Palm, who not only played college softball but won an NCAA Division II title in 2009 at Lock Haven (Pa.) University. Palm was a utility player, seeing time at second base and the outfield.
Last year – and Palm’s background – also seems to be helping to start turn the program around. Beyond that, Palm said the attitude’s changed.
“To be honest in the past couple years we’ve had a lot of people with bad attitudes or didn’t want to be here,” she said. “With this team, I’ve never had anything (like) that. They play really well together. Even if they get down, they still play hard.
“It’s not like a snowball effect with them. If something happens, we always try to tell them just recover from it.”
Palm, who replaced veteran area coach James Browning, said the girls like having a female coach they can “relate to.”
“And they know that I did win a national championship,” she said.
JHS’ upside figures to just continue to grow now that it has added three players off the state basketball finalists, including Claire Kellum, who was 2-for-2 with an RBI off the bench against Hoggard.
“All three of them are athletes,” Palm said. “We were 3-1 without them. So that’s very good.”
Katie Becker, who played third base Wednesday but moves to shortstop when Moore pitches, said there’s been some adjustments after losing eight seniors.
“It kind of hurt, but it’s okay,” said Becker, who is hitting .388 with 9 RBIs and 2 doubles. “We had a lot more people come out to workouts, which is great. Last year, we struggled to get people to come out to workouts.
“But we’ve had the whole team out. Any optional practice we had, most of the team is there.”
Becker also said the team’s “chemistry” is much better.
“We have a better dynamic between the girls,” she said.
That could be tested – or further revealed – as the Cardinals look to bounce back from their lopsided loss to Hoggard.
“We really need to come back the next game,” she said. “We definitely shouldn’t have lost as much as we did.”
WP–Tresvik (1-1) 7 IP 5 H 4 R 3 ER 13 K 7 BB. LP–Wendt (2-2) 7 IP 12 H 14 R 9 ER 4 K 4 BB. LEADING HITTERS–H: Hawkins 2-4 2 RBIs 3 runs BB; Mathis 2-4 2 RBIs 2 runs BB; Karg 2-4 2B RBI 1 run. J: Kellum 2-2 RBI 1 run; Owens 1-3 2B RBI; Becker 1-3 RBI BB; Standard 1-3. RECORDS–H: 2-4, at North Brunswick on Friday. J: 3-2, hosts West Craven on Friday.
Rick Scoppe can be reached at 910-219-8471 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org