New London sweeps WACO
WAYLAND — The dominant pitching and hot bats of the New London softball team were too much for the struggling WACO squad in a varsity twin bill on Wednesday night in Wayland. New London claimed victory in both games by scores of 13-0 and 13-5.
The Warriors (3-11, 2-7 SEISC North) had just 10 hits in the two games, and their struggles followed them to the field, where they committed 11 errors on the night.
“We’re just kinda in a funk,” WACO head coach Shannon Rugg said. “We can’t make routine plays, and we’ve been struggling to hit. Hopefully this last inning will get us going for tomorrow.”
In the last inning of the nightcap, the WACO bats finally came alive, and they had four hits and took advantage of three New London errors to score four runs — something that Rugg knew they were capable of all along.
“I think they finally just relaxed and played softball,” Rugg said. “We’re going to make mistakes, young as we are, but you learn, and you have to play through it.”
In the opener, WACO faced one particularly tough obstacle: New London ace Morgan Christner, who limited them to just two hits — one each from Leah McElhinney and Katie Miles — in seven innings.
“She throws hard and moves the ball around,” Rugg said. “She’s one of the best we’ve faced this year, and she has a bright future.”
Christner is fifth among pitchers across the state, in all classes, with 134 strikeouts on the year, and she has walked only 17 batters. She has a 1.92 ERA over 91 innings and a record of 10-5.
“She gets the job done in the circle,” New London head coach Paula Bliven said. “Right now, we’re just focusing on how to keep her fresh.”
Despite pitching two games already this week, Christner looked pretty fresh against the Warriors. She had 11 strikeouts and no walks against WACO.
She didn’t need it, though. She also had plenty of run support — including a lot of help from her own bat.
“She’s starting to see the ball really well at the plate,” Bliven said of Christner.
The Tigers (11-5, 4-2 SEISC North) had 15 hits in game one, led by Christner, who went 4-for-5 with a double and two RBIs. Emily Parks was 3-for-5 with two runs scored, while Jorgi Krieger and Victoria Noel both went 2-for-4. Caitlin Chiri was 2-for-5 with a double and a triple. Hits also came from Sami Koontz and Emma Pry. Koontz had two runs knocked in, as did Chiri and Krieger. Noel batted in three.
The Tigers did a good job of not only hitting, but grouping their hits together. They scored three runs in the first, two in the fourth, four in the fifth and four in the seventh.
“We have told them all season that once it starts, it’s very contagious — all our hits were consecutive hits,” Bliven said. “When we catch fire, it goes — that’s just how it is with us. Now we just need to work on starting it a little earlier.”
The Tigers started strong in the second game, scoring seven runs in the first two innings and limiting WACO to one.
The Warriors loaded the bases before bringing in their first run of the night, and had the potential to score a couple more, but left runners stranded at second and third.
New London pitcher Victoria Noel got some support from hitters Chiri and Krieger, who had three RBIs each, as she held the hosts scoreless from there until the seventh inning.
“We need to manage Morgan’s innings, so seeing [Noel] out there was very encouraging,” Bliven said.
Noel went seven innings and gave up eight hits for five runs, two of which were earned. She walked two batters and struck out seven.
“She has thrown some JV, but last night it looked like she had been pitching [varsity] all year,” Bliven added. “It’s nice to know that we may be able to use her in some tournament situations. We have a couple other options, too, but Victoria looked as sharp as anyone we’ve thrown so far.”
Most of the damage that the Warriors were able to do came in the seventh, when they really started connecting at the plate. Cierra McArtor, McElhinney, Morgan Dugger and Mayme Hihn each had a hit in the inning. There were also some New London errors to help them out — Libby Skriver, Sara Conwell and Jaelyn Unternahrer each reached on an error.
However, the Tigers were able to stop the WACO rally before too much damage was done, securing the sweep.