BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
ARGOS –- The Argos softball team lost Wednesday, but it is going to take more than loss to dampen coach Alyssa Thayer’s enthusiasm.
Carleigh Miller singled, doubled, walked twice and drove in a run, and Allison Zahm singled, walked and had an RBI, but the Lady Dragons lost to Class 1A, No. 9 Morgan Township 10-2.
Courtney Epler pitched a six-hitter in the circle for the win, and she also hit a solo home run in the fifth inning for Morgan Township. Ally Parsons had three hits, two RBIs and three runs scored. Lanie Ruf had two hits, a walk and an RBI. Kameron Ritthaler had a pair of RBI groundouts.
Both teams are 1-2. Argos was coming off a 14-7 win over Culver Tuesday while Morgan Township was coming off losses to Andrean and Winamac to open its season.
Argos used four pitchers – freshman Aleasia Sarver, Miller, Makena Lineberry and Zahm. They combined to walk 11. Argos also committed three errors that led to three unearned runs.
Thayer only pitched Zahm the final two innings because she had pitched a complete game against Culver on Tuesday and wanted to rest her arm.
That Thayer felt confident in using four pitchers is one sign of positivity.
“Sarver’s actually a freshman, so I wanted to get her some time on the mound and get her some innings in ... and get the jitters out a little bit so we can use her throughout the year,” Thayer said. “Because I think all of our pitchers can pitch some time as well and give Zahm a break when she needs one.”
Zahm also made the defensive play of the game, making a leaping catch in center field on Ruf’s deep liner and then throwing to second to double off Parsons and end the top of the second inning.
Despite the loss, Thayer said there is reason for optimism.
“I think if we keep playing like this, we’ll shock some teams this year,” Thayer said. “I’m proud of how they played tonight. We only had three errors. I think our defense is stepping it up, and people are stepping up for a young team. … At the beginning of the year, I definitely said this team is farther along than most of my other years have been. I think they’re understanding the game better, even with having younger girls. As we keep going, the young girls are going to learn the game a little bit more as well.”
Morgan Township scored three runs in the top of the first and never trailed. They made it 5-0 in the third on Ritthaler’s RBI grounder to second and when Reilly Biggs escaped a pickle between third and home and wound up stealing home.
Parsons’ RBI grounder and a run-scoring wild pitch that brought home Epler made it 7-0 in the fourth.
Argos responded in the bottom half after Epler held them hitless through three. Kendra Burkholder, who had singled with one out, was on first with two outs when Lineberry, Zahm and Miller delivered back-to-back-to-back singles. Zahm’s and Miller’s hits brought home runs to make it 7-2.
Morgan Township extended their lead on Epler’s homer and Ruf’s RBI single in the fifth to make it 9-2 and Lauren Moore’s RBI grounder to short in the seventh to make it 10-2.
Epler slipped a called third strike past Madisyn Barcus with two on to end the fourth, and Argos didn’t get another runner in scoring position until Miller’s leadoff double in the seventh.
Epler mixed abundant spin with well-times off-speed pitches, getting Argos hitters to lunge seemingly just as they were expecting something faster.
“I think that’s what was happening,” Thayer said. “It was throwing them off a little bit. We haven’t worked a ton on change-ups in practice, but I think eventually once they see it more, they’ll get used to it a little bit more, and they’ll start picking that stuff up.”
Morgan Township 10, Argos 2
Morgan Township 302 220 1 – 10 8 1
Argos 000 200 0 – 2 6 3
WP – Courtney Epler (7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 11 K)
LP – Aleasia Sarver (3 IP, 2 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 6 BB, 0 K)
2B – Kayelee Dudzik (MT), Ally Parsons 2 (MT)
HR – Courtney Epler (MT)
Thayer said the reason why the players are understanding the game better is because more of them are playing travel ball during the summer.
Another reason for hope is that Argos has a junior high team for the first time. Thayer said 16 girls are playing on that team.
Argos hosts sectional rival Triton in a doubleheader at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Allison Zahm Carleigh Miller