(Cover photo: Taylor Lee pitched a complete-game nine-hitter for Presentation. Credit: Conor Revell)
Presentation’s softball team is hoping to make some noise this season, and so far it has.
Riding a four-run fourth inning, the Toppers defeated visiting Eastern 4-2 Monday night for their fifth straight win.
Senior Taylor Lee pitched a complete game for Pres (5-1) and allowed nine hits while out striking out six and walking none.
“She’s a special player,” Pres head coach Marty Kuerzi said. “She hits both sides of the plate. She makes plays when we need her to. She comes to practice ready to play hard. She has put the team on her shoulder the past four years. She is a really good kid.”
Eastern helped the Toppers’ cause by committing two costly errors in the fourth inning.
“This is a big year for us,” Lee said. “We are really aiming for Holy Cross in the All ‘A.’ We are also shooting to getting far in region. I think we can do it if we continue to work as a team and work hard in practice.”
Abby Shipley led off the Presentation fourth with a single and Sarah Conklin followed with a chopper to third base. Eagles third baseman Morgan Willoughby over threw first base and the ball rolled down the right-field line, allowing Shipley to score and Conklin to take second.
Conklin moved to third when Eastern center fielder Peyton Mills dropped Ashley Swearingen’s routine fly ball, and Nicole Kuchma’s single scored Conklin and sent Swearingen to third.
“I saw the pitch go down the middle and I knew it was a good one,” Kuchma said. “I knew I wanted the pitch and I knew I had to do my job and drive Sarah home.”
Stephanie Fries’ two-run single gave Lee a comfortable four-run lead going to the fifth inning.
“I’m not sure what exactly the pitch was,” Fries said. “But it looked perfect for me and I told myself that this one looks good and I’m going to swing at it. I ended up being right.”
Elise Botler started in the circle for Eastern and gave up all four runs, two earned, and six hits in 3 1/3 innings. She struck out two.
“We’re hitting the ball well and did today,” Kuerzi said. “We’ve got a good lineup in the middle. Actually we are pretty solid from top to bottom. They can hit the ball hard. Every player can get us timely hits, even the role players.”
Olivia Leet replaced Botler and didn’t give up a hit while striking out five in 3 2/3 innings.
Eastern (5-4) attacked Lee in the sixth when Willoughby stroked a double and scored on Brittany Ernst’s single. Ernst stole second and came home on Molly Probus’ single.
“I threw a lot of drop balls and screwballs,” Lee said. “I also threw a lot of outside pitches, especially my fastball. They weren’t hitting them, so I kept on throwing to the outside.”
Kuchma is Pres’ backup pitcher and knows how big it was to give Lee that 4-0 lead.
“I look up to Taylor a lot,” said Kuchma, a sophomore. “I know how important it is to get a lead for our pitcher. It takes a little bit of stress off of her. But we had to continue to hit, and we had to back her up in the field because you can lose a 4-0 lead in a heartbeat.”
Swearingen led the Toppers with two hits. Shipley, Kuchma, Fries and Conklin each had one.
The Toppers’ lone loss came to Butler in the season opener. Since then, they have outscored their opponents 38-14. It’s Pres’ best start since it was 8-0 in 2007.
“I’ve really feel like we have grown as a team over the past four years,” Fries said. “It could be one of our best seasons in a long time if we can keep this up.”