COLUMBUS, Nebraska — The Cloud County Community College continued its strong play in April, earning a doubleheader split Thursday on the road against Central Community College-Columbus.
Cloud County (6-16 overall) rolled to a 9-2 victory in Game One, backed by four home runs and a complete-game pitching effort by freshman Jacie Marcotte, before falling by a narrow 3-2 final in the nightcap.
The T-Birds' offense got the day started with an impressive 15-hit performance in Game One, which included a season-high four home runs by four different players.
Cloud County now has 13 home runs on the season — all of them coming in the last nine games — after having just four a season ago and tying its total for the 2016-17 season.
"We hit the heck out of the ball the first game and we got a great pitching performance from Jacie," said Cloud County head coach, Aaron Acree. "After the first inning where we allowed two unearned runs, the defense settled in and we played the game how we're supposed to play it."
Cloud County got on the board first when freshman Mattison Hogrefe launched her second home run of the season with two outs in the top of the first.
With the game tied at 2-2 in the third, freshman Sarah Mccown tagged her team-leading fifth home run; this one a two-run shot that also scored Hogrefe to put the T-Birds on top for good at 4-3.
The T-Birds would add an insurance run in the fourth via a sacrifice fly by sophomore third baseman Payton Gillen, and three runs in the fifth inning highlighted by a leadoff long ball from Marcotte and a steal of home by freshman shortstop, Kennedy Doherty.
Doherty would cap the scoring in the top of the seventh when she connected for her first career home run that bumped Cloud County's lead to 9-2.
In the pitching circle, Marcotte shined as she brushed off a tough first inning to go all seven innings, limiting the Raiders to two unearned runs on four hits while striking out two.
The win was Marcotte's second of the season as the pitcher and part-time first baseman has continued to put all the pieces together in the last 10 days.
"She's working ahead a lot more and she continues to throw that changeup for strikes," Acree said of Marcotte, who also homered in Game Two to give her three this season. "Defensively, she is always sound at first base and she's turning the corner, offensively. She had a big day (Thursday) and her confidence is continuing to build."
As great as Cloud County's recent power surge has been, Acree said he believes the T-Birds' swings were a little too lofty in Game Two's 3-2 loss as they were limited to six hits in the finale.
"I think we got a little too greedy at the plate, got underneath the ball and were swinging for the fences," Acree said. "We weren't patient and waiting on strikes. We were swinging at balls and got away from our approach. We can't do that."
Central Community College-Columbus scored all three of its runs in the first inning and were able to hold on from there.
The T-Birds picked off an unearned run in the top of the fourth, got within one on Marcotte's second home run of the day in the sixth, and loaded the bases in the top of the seventh, but were unable to complete the comeback.
Cloud County, winners of five of its last six, will look to finish off its eight-game road trip strong when it takes on Johnson County Community College at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday.
The Cavaliers received votes on the latest NJCAA Division II national poll and are currently atop the Region VI standings at 10-7 overall, 7-1 in region play.
"We're going to have to play great defense and our pitching is going to have to continue to keep hitters off-balanced. Then we need to get back to what we were doing in Game One, offensively. I'm looking for 8-10 hits a game," Acree said. "If we can do those things, we'll be in the game. We must play our style of softball and not let Johnson County intimidate us. It's going to be a tough challenge, but I think the girls are ready for it."