By Brad Fauber
QUICKSBURG -- Stonewall Jackson's struggles on the softball field have provided little for the Generals to smile about this season, and things didn't get much better on Friday when they hosted Shenandoah District rival Buffalo Gap.
Stonewall, still seeking its first win of the season, committed 11 errors, and Buffalo Gap banged out 19 hits on its way to a 17-1 drubbing that ended in five innings via the mercy rule.
"We've done this all season. We roller coaster up and down -- we have a few good innings then we have a one big inning with a lot of errors, and a little bit of that is just lack of experience," Generals coach Jamie Armentrout said. "We have a really young team and a lot of people are playing in their position for the first time."
You would never know that the Generals would be on their way to committing 11 miscues in the field after what happened in the top of the first inning, when the Stonewall defense came up with two big plays to negate a pair of Bison hits.
The first play came when Buffalo Gap leadoff hitter Emily Chandler ripped a hit into left-center field and was thrown out at second base by Stonewall center fielder Kaylin Miller as Chandler attempted to extend a single into a double. Later in the inning, catcher Savannah Ludwig caught Bison freshman Amber Stokes trying to steal second to end the inning.
But it all went downhill for the Generals from there. In the top of the second, Stonewall committed four errors in the first five Buffalo Gap at-bats, and the Bison (5-5, 4-5 Shenandoah) capitalized by scoring eight runs on seven hits.
Buffalo Gap scored their first three runs on a pair of dropped fly balls and a single by Courtney Chittum, and Chandler delivered a two-run double with one out to give the Bison a 5-0 lead.
Stokes added an RBI single, Shannon Ashby -- batting for the second time in the inning -- drove in a run with a triple and Megan Hedrick added a one-run single to give the Bison an 8-0 lead.
"We came out with a lot of confidence this time and I think that ... we started off strong and we started off with our bats swinging," said Ashby, who was 4-for-4 with four RBIs. "We were more on our game, we were more prepared to play. We played our game today."
Stonewall's struggles in the field extended to the plate, as the Generals managed just two hits against Bison starter Kennedy Gordon, both of which came from senior Taylor Stover. Stover's RBI double in the fourth to score Ludwig gave Stonewall (0-12, 0-9) its only run of the game.
"Right now we're just trying to be competitive. We're trying to put the bat on the ball," Armentrout said. "We've been struggling hitting this season and that's one of our main goals, really to start hitting the ball and minimizing those errors in the field."
Buffalo Gap added four runs in the third inning and five more in the fourth, but were held scoreless in the top of the fifth inning.
Friday's win was a monumental one for the Bison, as it gave them their first .500 record in recent memory. First-year head coach Dawn Sheets said she focused on changing the mindset of her players, and it appears to have worked out well for the Bison so far this season.
"They were 1-16 last year, so I think as a coach my biggest challenge this year was mentally getting them out of that losing mindset," Sheets said, "making them believe, believe in themselves and believe that they are capable of winning ballgames."
For Stonewall, Armentrout remains focused on helping the team improve on various aspects on a game-by-game basis.
"We just try to work on new stuff every day. One game, what we're trying to do may not be working, so we try something different," Armentrout said. "We just keep trying to switch it up and make improvements and just concentrate on fundamentals."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com