BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
AKRON — The Tippecanoe Valley softball team had not faced live pitching prior to their season opener against visiting Mishawaka Marian Thursday, according to first-year coach Marc Green.
Then they saw Kaitlin Pratt, a junior left-hander who stifled the Valley offense and beat them 6-2 in sunny but chilly conditions.
Freshman Dalynne Bussard had two hits and an RBI for the Lady Vikings. Maddie Thompson added an RBI single in the seventh and also made a nifty running catch on Madison Meyers’ liner in the fifth.
She roped an RBI double over left fielder Katie Milligan’s head in the first to give Valley a 1-0 lead off Pratt, but Mishawaka Marian went ahead for good with two runs in the third on Grace O’Hara’s RBI triple and Roan Stanifer’s RBI groundout.
Abilina Dubree cranked a three-run homer to left-center in the fifth off Valley starter Corinna Stiles to make it 5-1.
Stiles allowed seven hits and walked four while striking out five. Three of the four hitters she walked came around to score.
Green said Mishawaka Marian adjusted by waiting on Stiles’ offerings. O’Hara, a left-handed hitter and the Lady Knights’ leadoff hitter, drove her triple to the left-center field gap after Stiles walked Madison Meyers to start the inning.
Roan Stanifer then hit a grounder that deflected off Stiles and caromed to Molly Moriarty at second base. Moriarty threw out Stanifer at first, but O’Hara scored to give Mishawaka Marian a 2-1 lead.
Stiles recovered and retired eight straight hitters before O’Hara’s bunt single with nobody on and two outs in the fifth. O’Hara then stole second. Stanifer walked.
That set up Dubree, whose fly to left center kept carrying before landing over the fence.
“The second time through, they seemed to be a little more patient on her and waiting for their pitch where early, they were kind of jumping at her,” Green said. “So they were waiting a little bit more on their pitch versus the first time.”
Meanwhile, Pratt gained effectiveness.
She allowed Madi Smith’s leadoff single in the second but then retired six in a row.
She allowed Bussard’s leadoff single in the fourth but struck out Mackaylie Costello and got Smith to ground into a double play.
She gave up a one-out single to Stiles in the sixth but got Moriarty and Bussard on flies to right.