HESSTON, Kansas — Emerging from the dugout Friday evening under the lights at the City Diamond in Hesston, the frustration for the Cloud County Community College softball team was evident following losses of 5-2 and 10-5 to Hesston College.
Cloud County (1-15 overall, 0-6 Region VI) fields a young roster of eight freshmen, seven of which received starts on Friday, and the T-Birds are still in the process of putting all the pieces together at the right time for a whole ballgame.
"Growing pains. That's what we're going through," said Cloud County head coach Aaron Acree. "The girls just have to keep on plugging away and they will. I've seen them grow the last two weeks, which is a good thing. We'll have to continue to keep battling and keep pushing through this and that's all we can do."
Game One came down to one tough inning for the T-Birds as Hesston College (9-8 overall, 4-2 Region VI) broke up what was an early pitcher's dual with a five-run fourth inning, having three of its first four batters reach.
It was the lone hiccup for Cloud County freshman pitcher Mattison Hogrefe, who tossed all six innings of Game One, limiting the Larks to the five runs on eight hits, giving her back-to-back six inning outings as she continues the transition from reliever to starter.
"I thought Mattison pitched very well today outside of that one inning," said Acree of Hogrefe, who also threw two scoreless innings in relief in Game Two. "She's developing into a starting rotation pitcher and as she's pitched more, she's seeing an increase in velocity and better control while still being able to change speeds a little bit. She's giving us productive innings."
For Mccown, who also hit a deep home run to left-center in Game Two, she extended her hitting streak to 10 games Friday and has three home runs in the last two days.
Marcotte home run was the first of her career as she took a ball away from her to the opposite field in right.
Freshman catcher hitter Emily Wells had the third hit in Game One for the T-Birds, finishing 1-for-3.
As for Game Two, some miscommunication in the field played a role in a 10-5 loss as the T-Birds committed five errors leading to five unearned runs for the Larks.
"Our defense fell asleep at times in that second game," Acree said. "We weren't talking, defensively, and the errors ended up costing us five runs."
Hesston took a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning and added two more in the second to take an early 6-2 lead.
After the T-Birds got an unearned run back in the top of the fourth to cut the deficit in half at 6-3, the Larks answered with a four-run home-half of the inning to go up 10-3.
Cloud County tried to spark a rally in the seventh as Mccown launched her second home run of the day with one out in the inning.
The next three T-Birds would all reach as Hogrefe, who was 2-for-3 in Game Two, singled, freshman outfielder Kara Chisolm drew a walk, and third baseman Payton Gillen singled home Hogrefe to make it a 10-5 ballgame.
Unfortunately for Cloud County, the rally stalled there as the Larks were able to defuse the threat and hold on for the 10-5 final.
Sophomore right-fielder Kelsey Bowers finished 1-for-3 in Game Two with an RBI single in the second inning, while Wells added a single to her day to round out Cloud County's top performers.
The T-Birds will now turn their attention toward a four-game home stand next week against Neosho County Community College (Thursday, March 28) and Coffeyville Community College (Saturday, March 30), respectively.
If the weather permits, next week will mark for the first home games of the season for Cloud County, and the first time the team will have the chance to practice outside after a cold and damp start to the spring.
"What I'm really excited about is hopefully getting to practice on the field Monday and Tuesday," Acree said. "That is what we need. We need practice on our field and we haven't been able to have one yet. We'll be able to work on some things with everybody instead of split practices."