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  • Val T.

Finke raps out 2 hits, but NM’s Duncan shuts out Caston in season opener

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

Alexa Finke

DENVER — The Caston softball team knows it. Their opponents know it. They are determined not to let Isabel Scales beat them.

Make somebody else get the big hit.

North Miami risked it against the visiting Lady Comets in Caston’s season opener Monday, and the risk paid off as ace hurler Lauren Duncan pitched North Miami to a 2-0 win.

Ellie Musselman’s two-run double in the first off Kinzie Mollenkopf scored Jordyn Hackworth and Reese Hoover for the game’s only runs.

Alexa Finke had a pair of singles for Caston and added a stolen base. Mollenkopf had a double, and Zimpleman and Scales had one hit each.

Class 1A, No. 4 Caston put a runner in scoring position in the second, third and fourth innings, but their best chance to score came in the sixth.

Addison Zimpleman led off with a single, and Mollenkopf roped a double to deep left to move Zimpleman to third.

North Miami coach Mike Meeks then decided to intentionally walk Scales to load the bases and put the potential go-ahead run on base. In other words, make somebody else get the big hit.

Duncan then struck out Annie Harsh swinging and Macee Hinderlider looking before getting Kylee Logan on a fly to Emily Smith in shallow center field.

“And I knew that coming in,” Caston coach Jon Burks said of protecting Scales in the batting order. “I just didn’t know how much it would really play into it. But like I said, I’ll just make some changes, and we’ll move on.”

In the seventh, Duncan struck out Bailey Harness, gave up a single to Finke and then bounced back by striking out Myli Rude and getting Zimpleman on a routine fly to Hackworth in left to end it.

Duncan pitched a five-hitter. Her only walk was the intentional walk to Scales. She struck out 11.

Duncan also beat Caston 5-3 in last year’s sectional final, though she did give up a homer to Scales in that game.

North Miami is the reigning regional champion, but they are ranked behind sectional rivals Caston and No. 3 West Central.

“She just spots it well,” Burks said of Duncan. “She puts the ball where she wants it there and gets us to bite. We tried to warn them ahead of time, but I think they were coming out of the gates a little anxious today, and they get going, and they just weren’t being disciplined at the plate a little bit.”

Hackworth led off the first with a single. Hoover sacrificed Hackworth to second, and when the throw to try to get her at first was wild for an error, North Miami had runners on first and third.

Hoover then stole second, and both scored when Musselman pulled a double to left.

Duncan reached on a check-swing infield single that ticked off Mollenkopf’s glove, moving Musselman to third. Duncan then stole second.

Mollenkopf then struck out Ashtyn Halterman looking and Addison Miller swinging to escape further trouble.

Mollenkopf, a Huntington University signee, allowed only two baserunners the rest of the game – Smith on a one-out double in the second and Hackworth on a one-out single in the sixth. Hackworth was erased on a pop-fly double play to Harsh to end the fifth.

“Kinzie, she struggled there for a minute and let them get a couple hits, and they took advantage of it, and we couldn’t,” Burks said.

Logan made her varsity debut at catcher, which moved Scales from behind the plate to shortstop. The other freshman that played was Rude, who entered as a pinch-hitter in the fifth inning and batted twice.

Finke, a junior, has also impressed Burks.

“Oh my, oh my,” Burks said. “From last year to this year, 180 degrees. Totally. She’s putting the ball in play. At practice, she’s hitting in the batting cage. She really wants it, I guess. Honestly, over the offseason, which I’ve asked and it shows with her, get some time in and get some swings in, and she’s actually gone and taken lessons. She’s going to be good pop down at the bottom of our lineup.”

North Miami 2, Caston 0

Caston 000 000 0 – 0 5 1

North Miami 200 000 X – 2 5 3

WP – Lauren Duncan (7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 K)

LP – Kinzie Mollenkopf (6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 10 K)

2B – Kinzie Mollenkopf (CAS), Ellie Musselman (NM), Emily Smith (NM)


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