September 21, 2010 10:32:00 AM
Kasey Stanfield knows good things don''t usually happen when hitters reach for pitches.
But sometimes power can help a batter make up for swinging at a pitcher''s pitch.
On Monday, Stanfield wasn''t the only member of the New Hope High School fast-pitch softball team who displayed her strength.
The sophomore third baseman smacked her first two home runs of the season to lead a 17-hit attack in a 19-0 victory against Columbus. The game was stopped after three innings due to the 15-run mercy rule and because the two light towers closest to home plate weren''t working.
Stanfield (six RBIs) and Haley Tutor (double, two RBIs) each had three hits to help New Hope (14-4) rebound from a 14-8 loss to Amory on Thursday. Lauren Holifield, Kaitlin Bradley, and Jessica Moore each had two hits as the Lady Trojans used a 14-run second inning that featured 13 hits to beat Columbus for the second time this season.
"I tried my best to hit the ball to the outfield because (New Hope) coach (Tabitha) Beard drills that into our heads," Stanfield said. "I did reach for it, but I just hit in the right spot, I guess."
Stanfield was so excited about her drive that she ran past first base and had to go back and tag it. The adrenaline was still pumping as she raced around the bases and was mobbed by her teammates at home plate.
Stanfield slowed her pace on the second home run, a three-run shot in the second inning, one of two hits in the frame.
"It felt like it was actually happening," Stanfield said. "It sunk in that this could be the second of many if I keep working hard."
Holifield also homered in a second inning in which New Hope sent 17 batters to the plate and had four and six hitters in row get hits.
"I think we hit the ball really well," Beard said. "One of the things we have tried to work on and tried to work on is pitch selection at the plate. I felt when we hit the ball well it was because of that. We waited on good pitches and we did things right."
Tutor said successful slow-pitch teams can''t play great defense without a strong hitting attack. She said the Lady Trojans still need to work on their consistency, but she is confident that will come because the team will work hard in practice.
Tutor also likes the changes New Hope has made in the outfield. She said the combination of Moore in left-center field, Jordan Johnson in right-center field, and Anna McCrary in right field gives the team good speed and savvy from corner to corner.
"Anna McCrary is so strong at diving for balls, but she is not that fast, and there are no words to describe Jordan''s speed," Tutor said. "Me and Jessica even out because we know I can get this one and she can get that one, so we talk so much together. It helps our team."
New Hope also flashed its trademark defense in its brief 12-batter appearance. Tutor, who returned to the lineup after missing two games with a right hand injury, made a fine backhanded catch on a sinking line drive toward the left-field line in the first inning. The next inning, she charged in and made another strong backhanded catch on a sinking liner.
Not to be outdone, Stanfield, who had played extra hitter earlier in the season and was moved to the field after Tutor''s injury, made a leaping stab to her left on a line drive by Shaquera Wilson.
"If you would have asked me at the beginning of the season (if she could make that play at third base) I would have told you I was scared to death," Stanfield said. "I was so scared to mess up I wasn''t Kasey. Now I have gotten to where I do my thing and I get in a groove, and I go out there and do the best I can. ... If a ball is hit to me I am thinking, ''I got this.'' I am not scared anymore.
Shanqula Fulton led off with a single for Columbus'' only hit.
Fine defensive play has been a staple for New Hope, which has won three consecutive slow-pitch state title, including its first in Class 5A last season. The Lady Trojans already are thinking about the playoffs, as evidenced by the fact they discussed the postseason in their postgame huddle.
Making sure Stanfield knows to trot rather than run when she hits a home run might be the only things New Hope has to iron out before it begins its title chase.
If that''s the case, the Lady Trojans like their chances next month to bring home another title.
"I feel really strong (about our chances)," Tutor said. "In the beginning, I wasn''t real sure, but I knew we could do it. I know we have a really, really strong team this year, and I am so proud of how far we have come. I know we can come together and play defense like we know we can and hit just like we did tonight.
"I feel we are on the right track, but I know we can do better, but tonight was really good."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.