STARKVILLE — Heritage Academy fast-pitch softball coach Gary Harris wants to see more quality at-bats from his team.
Fortunately for Harris and the Lady Patriots, they had multiple opportunities to work on their offensive game Thursday afternoon.
Heritage Academy had a season-best 16 hits in a 12-2 six-inning victory against Starkville Academy in a non-district game.
“We really didn’t have very good at-bats in the middle of the game,” Harris said. “Some of the batters in the top of the lineup were out front anticipating. Sometimes we are overaggressive at the plate.
“We have a long way to go offensively, but still we did some things right. It was good to see the big inning at the end.”
Heritage Academy (2-3) built a 4-0 lead in the top of the first. The Lady Patriots stretched the lead to 6-0, and led 6-2 before sending 11 batters to the plate in a game-deciding six-run sixth.
“We want more big innings because you play with a lot of confidence when you have those kinds of innings,” Heritage Academy senior first baseman Katlyn Petty said. “Sometimes we let up after we score first. We can’t do that. That was the best thing about this game.
“We found a way to have another big inning to make sure we put the game away.”
A couple of misplays allowed Starkville Academy (3-5) to crawl back in the game with two runs in the home half of the fourth. The Lady Volunteers did the damage with the bottom third of the lineup. Pitcher Kaitlyn Oswalt worked out of the tight spot and finished the game in the circle.
“We have to get better at getting the final out of the inning,” Harris said. “We should have not allowed those two runs, and that pretty much got them back in the game. We got to do a better job of not getting down after we don’t get an out. You need to battle back and make the next play to get out of the inning.”
Heritage Academy had six hits in the decisive sixth. Casey Taylor had a two-run single, and Caitlin McLain and Petty each had RBI singles. Brooklyn Waldrep started the inning with a single and later added an RBI single.
“I thought we hit the ball the whole game and we kept a positive attitude,” said Waldrep, a sophomore second baseman. “We had a good warmup and everybody came out feeling really positive. It helps when you score first because you build some momentum. Your team is excited and you can tell the other team is deflated a little bit.
“The first inning is where we won the game. It is important to keep working at doing things during the game. That is what we are trying to learn to do.”
Waldrep had three hits and reached base four times. McLain and Petty also had three hits. Oswalt and Macy Nordquist each added multiple hits.
Starkville Academy had five hits off Oswalt, a transfer from New Hope High School. Nora Kathyn Carroll was the lone multiple hitter for the Lady Volunteers.
“She is really beginning to hit her spots for the whole game,” said Petty about Oswalt’s pitching performance.”We are really happy to have KO. You can tell she is getting more confidence each time she starts.”
Confidence is something Harris wants to see build throughout the team. Heritage Academy hits the bulk of its schedule today with a trip to Grenada Kirk Academy and Monday with a trip to Magnolia Heights for a district game Monday. The week ends with a home game against Central Academy on Thursday and the College Exposure Tournament next Saturday in Starkville.
“We are making progress,” Harris said. “You would like to see it come together more quickly. However, it is good to have a game like this, where you don’t play well for a stretch and still win comfortably. The big inning at the end gave us some separation.”
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.