By Jeff Nations
WINCHESTER -- Frank Nelson would settle for the little things, he really would.
With a severe loss in power from last year's squad due to graduations, Nelson has stressed to his Skyline softball team the necessity to not try and do too much this season. Small ball would suit the Hawks just fine, in effect.
On Tuesday against Northwestern District rival Millbrook, Nelson's squad paid him no heed at all. The Hawks erupted for an 11-run inning by battering the Pioneers for eight hits in the frame on the way to a mercy rule-shortened 14-2 victory in five innings.
So much for the dink-and-dunk strategy, at least for one day. Still, Nelson knows his squad won't always hit like they did against the Pioneers on Tuesday.
"We lost 19 home runs from last year, between three girls, so that's hard to really fill out," Nelson said. "So we're just nickel and dime -- little fundamentals like bunting and squeeze plays and stuff like that -- just try to make runs, manufacture runs. That's what we have to do this year."
Skyline (5-4, 2-1 Northwestern) got going early against Millbrook starting pitcher McKenzie Steele. Hannah Ritter led off the game with a single and eventually scored on a wild pitch. Michaela Craig followed with a single and scored on Tori Jo Brown's RBI double to give the Hawks a quick 2-0 lead.
Millbrook (4-6, 0-2 Northwestern) got a run back in the bottom of the first on Marissa Lee's RBI groundout, but the second inning was the Pioneers' undoing.
Skyline made consistent contact in the second, and more often than not the Hawks found holes in Millbrook's defense. Steele and relief pitcher Sarah Clark combined to allow eight hits and a trio of walks as the Hawks sent 15 batters to the plate in the 11-run outburst.
"Everybody participated and everybody had a good part in it," Nelson said.
That was plenty of run support for Skyline starting pitcher Sarah Beamer, who went all five innings for the win. She struck out six while allowing six hits and no walks.
At the plate, Skyline sophomore catcher Samantha Santmyers had a 4-for-4 day with an RBI. Afterward, Santmyers couldn't say whether the four-hit game was a first for her.
"I don't really keep track of it," Santmyers said. "I just know I have to get up there and hit the ball."
Skyline's Emily Ritter added three singles and an RBI, Hannah Ritter had a pair of hits, and Brown and Beamer each had a double among their two hits apiece. Skyline totaled 16 hits in all.
Santmyers said this past weekend's Harry Combs Classic at Central High School helped the Hawks dial down their swings at the plate.
"Over the weekend we faced a slow pitcher, so I feel like we were ready for this pitcher today," Santmyers said. "And we just got up there and swung the bats well."
Millbrook did total four doubles among its six hits, but the Pioneers couldn't keep pace with the defending district champion Hawks.
"We're not a bad team," Nelson said. "Sometimes, like sprinters, we stumble out of the starting gate and it takes us some time to wake up."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>