The Tooele softball team picked up its first win of the season with a 13-3 mercy rule win against the Ogden Tigers.
It’s been a tough start for the Lady Buffs, who lost their first 11 games of the season, but the bats and the defense came alive to take down Region 11 foe Ogden.
“We’ve been working through a lot of adversity,” Tooele coach Melanie Nelson said. “We’ve been talking about controlling the controllables, and they came out today and executed that. I told them when you do that you win ball games. It feels good just to get a win.”
The Lady Buffs have nine freshmen and sophomores on the roster with a majority of those players getting significant playing time. One of those key freshmen against Ogden was pitcher Izzy Nicholas. She pitched all five innings in the 10-run-rule-shortened game with four strikeouts, five walks and three earned runs.
“She has stepped up,” Nelson said. “She’s pretty much taken that role and really has had some great games. She knows how to move the ball.”
Nelson said Nicholas has little-man syndrome so she plays with a chip on her shoulder and isn’t afraid of anybody.
“She can pack a punch stone faced,” Nelson said. “She can get the job done.”
Nicholas had a no-hitter through 3 1/3 innings, which was broken up on a double to center field. Ogden scored its first run in that fourth inning. Other than the two runs she allowed in the top of the fifth inning, Nicholas didn’t face much adversity throughout the afternoon. Those two runs she gave up kept the Lady Buffs from finishing off the Tigers with the 10-run rule right away, but they got those two runs back in the bottom of the fifth inning to eventually win by the mercy rule.
Freshman Trystin Crofts knocked a double and then stole third base to open the bottom of the fifth. Sophomore Alysia Roybal then hit a lineout right to first base, but the Tigers tried to double up Crofts at third when she had to retreat to the base. The Tigers overthrew the play, and Crofts ran home for a 12-3 Tooele lead. Sophomore Alyssa Arslanian then reached first base after a dropped pop fly by Ogden’s catcher. Junior Whitnie Touhuni knocked a base hit, and then Arslanian reached third base on a bad throw from the outfield back to the infield. Touhuni stole second on the next play, and sophomore Rylee Whitehouse laid down a sacrifice bunt that scored Arslanian for the win.
One of Tooele’s highlight plays came in the bottom of the third inning from Whitehouse. She placed the bat on the ball perfectly to send it deep so she could round the bases for an inside-the-park home run. That play put the Lady Buffs ahead 6-0.
Tooele built its lead with two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Touhuni smacked a single to drive in Roybal and Arslanian for a 2-0 lead. Crofts hit an RBI single in the bottom of the second inning to score the pinch-running Duncan, and later in the inning, Arslanian hit a two-run single that scored Crofts and Roybal to make the score 5-0.
Tooele scored five runs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Touhuni hit a double that scored Arslanian, and then later scored on an error for an 8-1 lead. Senior Kaitlyn Bitters tallied a base hit that scored Whitehouse for a 9-1 lead, and then scored on the next at-bat after a triple by freshman Sierrah Anderson. She then scored on a passed ball for an 11-1 lead.
The Lady Buffs have battled injuries this season, including an injury to senior catcher Kit Olney. Along with her, junior pitcher Lauren Frailey has battled injuries and is finally starting to get back into the swing of things. Frailey smacked a ground-rule double in her first at-bat, and she coaxed a walk in her second at-bat. With her injury still bothering her, not having to run the bases for those at-bats makes a big difference.
“It worked out perfectly because she’s still struggling with movement,” Nelson said. “We don’t really want her running the bases so that was ideal that she got to walk.”
Freshman Jocelyn Duncan pinch-ran for Frailey in both at-bats, and stayed in the game permanently after running for her the second time.
“I’m just glad that [Frailey] got to get some consistent at-bats today,” Nelson said. “It’s really been her first time out.”
She said the biggest challenge this season is getting her young players who have been thrust into the spotlight to start believing in themselves.
“These little freshmen, if they can just figure out that they’re good, that they really belong out there no matter who’s out there they’re playing against, you’re going to see a lot of good stuff out of them,” Nelson said.
Despite the rocky start to the season, this game was just Tooele’s second region game of the season. With a 1-1 record in the standings, the season is young and the Lady Buffs can start believing they can get things on the right track.
“We’re getting it when it counts,” Nelson said. “Every day we’re getting a little better. We’re getting our injuries better, and that’s what it’s all about. These kids have fought and fought and fought through a lot. I’ve never seen a group quite as scrappy and hungry to get better than this group.”