Early mistakes cost Falcons

Central shortstop Shennan Waldron puts a tag on Madison County's Jeana Kelliher on a third base steal attempt during the seventh inning Monday night in Woodstock. Kelliher was called safe on the play. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Early mistakes in the field and on the bases hurt Central’s softball team Monday night against visiting Madison County.

The Mountaineers took advantage of two Central defensive miscues by scoring a pair of runs in the top of the first inning, and the Falcons failed to send a runner past first base as Madison County picked up a 3-0 Bull Run District victory to extend its winning streak to 13 straight.

“They came out hard. They came out ready. They came out firing,” Falcons coach Lisa Rhodes said. ” … Just never recovered from that.”

Madison County (16-1, 13-0 Bull Run) put pressure on the Falcons (15-2, 11-2) and junior starting pitcher Bekah Ansbro quickly, as the first four Mountaineers batters reached safely to open the top of the first inning.

Sam Atwell started the came by reaching second on an error and Mariann Smith put runners on the corners when she poked a two-strike bunt over the head of charging first baseman Kristina Stead for a hit. A walk to Megan Shifflett loaded the bases with no outs, and Madison County senior Bailey Colvin turned on the first pitch she saw from Ansbro and ripped it into left-center for a two-run double and a 2-0 Mountaineers lead.

Madison County shortstop Bailey Colvin puts the tag on Central's Kristina Stead during a second base steal attempt in a late inning Monday night in Woodstock. Stead was out on the play. Rich Cooley/Daily

“That was our goal,” Madison County coach Jesse Yowell said of the early runs. “We sit around and talk about it. … It just paid off in the first inning, getting some things done and stuff. We didn’t execute a lot like I wanted through the game. We left a lot of opportunities out there not being able to bunt and advance runners and stuff like that.”

Ansbro avoided further damage in the first inning by striking out the next three batters and she settled in after that, holding Madison County to just one hit over the final six innings. Ansbro uncharacteristically walked six batters in Monday’s loss, but only two of her three runs allowed were earned and she struck out 15 in the seven-inning effort.

The Mountaineers added an insurance run in the top of the seventh inning on a wild pitch.

“Without those first couple flubs that first inning it was a 1-0 ballgame,” Rhodes said. ” … [Ansbro] was being really effective in the circle. I just feel like our biggest deficit tonight was our hitting. It was just our hitting wasn’t there. That’s our first shutout this season. We’ve never been shut out before.”

The Falcons had a chance to counter on offense multiple times as they put the leadoff batter on base in four of the first five innings, including leadoff singles from Ansbro, Shennan Waldron and Stead. However, Central had a runner doubled up at first base on line drives in each of the first two innings, and another leadoff baserunner was caught stealing in the fifth.

Madison County's Harper Kerr dives back to third base after her teammate popped out to Central third baseman Alisia Turner on a bunt attempt during the sixth inning Monday night in Woodstock. Central shortstop Shennan Waldron waits on the throw that came too late for the double play. Rich Cooley/Daily

The Falcons, whose fourth and final hit of the night came on a soft line drive off the bat of Autumn Shelton with two outs in the sixth, put a total of six runners on base against Mountaineers starter Megan Shifflett but failed to advance any of them past first base.

“There were a couple mindless errors that happened tonight,” Rhodes said.

Shifflett, aided by the two double plays from her defense, tossed a complete-game shutout while limiting Central to four hits and two walks. The junior left-hander struck out six.

“It was just a little bit of everything,” Rhodes said of Central’s lack of run production. ” … She was left-handed. I know that adds a little bit of a challenge to what you do at the plate. You can attribute that to it. We didn’t execute the short game. There were a lot of things that we just didn’t … master tonight.”

Central, which didn’t play Madison County last season after both games were rained out and not made up, will get another shot at Mountaineers on Thursday when the Falcons travel to Madison to close out the regular season.

“We haven’t seen them since 2013 so I’m eager to see them again,” Rhodes said. “I want to see them again. I really do. They’re a good team. They’re a really solid program, but we are better than we played tonight.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com