August 16, 2012 11:21:58 PM
WEST POINT -- Heritage Academy senior catcher Caitlin McLain and junior pitcher Madison Sears are now beginning to find a rhythm.
"They are beginning to know one another," Heritage Academy coach Gary Harris said. "This is Caitlin's first year to catch and Madison's first year to pitch.
"On days like today, they look like they have done it forever."
The Lady Patriots only managed one hit Thursday afternoon but Sears' pitching and McLain's defense were enough as Heritage Academy knocked off Oak Hill Academy 3-2 in fast-pitch softball action at Kim Keller Field.
"(McLain) keeps my head from getting too big and I keep her head from getting too angry," Sears said. "We really are a good combination."
The Lady Patriots (3-4) were playing less than 24 hours after a 4-0 home loss to Pillow Academy.
"It really felt good to get back out here and pick up a softball again," McLain said. "Yesterday was not our day, but we always bounce back strong. We knew Mamie (Allen) was out, so we had to take advantage of that."
Oak Hill (6-5) was playing without ace pitcher Mamie Allen, who aggravated a hand injury in Wednesday's home win over Central Academy.
"It was an emotional blow for us, no doubt about it," Oak Hill coach Marion Bratton said. "We will just have to have other players step up. Hopefully, she will not miss more than a week."
Harris really liked what he saw from his squad Wednesday even in the defeat at Pillow.
"Pillow had beaten this team badly twice last season," Harris said. "In yesterday's game, we gave them three of their four runs. So we were right there with one of the elite teams in the state.
"One thing about this team is they are never lacking confidence. Even though we lost, I thought the attitude would carry over to today and it did."
Sears also teamed up with McLain in a complete-game pitching performance Wednesday.
"I think you are beginning to see that we play well with each other," Sears said. "Caitlin is really an intense competitor. I am focused but a little more laid back.
"Each time we work together, it gets better."
The togetherness was in full display in the fifth inning. Facing the top of the Oak Hill lineup and still protecting the 3-2 lead, Sears got back-to-back outs to end that threat, stranding two Lady Raiders in scoring position.
"I was really stressing out," McLain said. "It was like I was beginning to get gray hairs. Madison is like 'Don't worry, I got this'. Sure enough, she made some really great pitches. She did her thing and got us out of that inning."
Heritage Academy opened the scoring with two runs in the first inning. Sears ripped a one-out, two-run double to left field.
It would be the only hit allowed by Oak Hill Academy pitcher Maegen Ellis.
"I thought starting strong would be critical for us," Harris said. "I wanted to see what kind of letdown we might have. So scoring runs in the first inning was huge.
"Right now, we are not a good offensive team. We have to make the plays in the field and have to pitch it well. We really did both of those things."
Two walks and a perfectly-executed slap bunt set up the double. In the third inning, an infield error and another great sacrifice bunt allowed Brooklyn Waldrep to trot home on a passed ball.
Oak Hill Academy scored twice in the fourth inning but got no closer. The Lady Raiders had their only two hits of the contest in that at-bat.
"We have players who are going to the plate and are afraid of making outs," Bratton said. "We have to reverse that. We need players who go up there, believing they are going to get that run-scoring hit."
After the Lady Raiders final threat was snuffed in the fifth inning, it was all about pitching and defense. The two teams combined to make 14 straight outs to end the contest.
"Our defense was exceptional," Harris said. "Obviously, we knew we caught a break with Mamie being out of the lineup.
"The kids really responded and got what is a big win. It is very hard to win here."
Heritage Academy made all the plays when it had to most. The Lady Patriots made one error and also benefited from a throwout at third base by McLain in the first inning.
"I try to be the captain of our defense," McLain said. "It is really hard with all of this gear on. Games like this are why you play though."
On this day, a pitcher and catcher relationship wrote the storyline.
"I think it works well because we are very direct with one another," Sears said. "It makes it easier when the person you are working with is honest and tells you what they are really thinking."
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.
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