CONCORDIA, Kansas — It'll be the plays that got away Wednesday that'll sting for the Cloud County Community College softball team as the T-Birds were in positions to take two wins from Cowley College, but instead fell short in a pair of wild games, 11-8 and 5-3, against the Tigers.
"Defensively, we didn't make a few plays. Some were errors and others that weren't scored errors were just some bad reads or the balls lost in the sun," said Cloud County head coach, Aaron Acree. "That's what haunted us all day; the errors and misjudged balls. And we're better than that."
Cloud County (8-20 overall, 2-10 Region VI) made a valiant effort in Game One to force extra innings, rallying from an 8-0 deficit through four innings to crawl back even with the Tigers (19-16 overall, 10-4 Region VI).
The T-Birds stormed back with three runs in the fifth inning on a RBI double by freshman Emily Wells that scored pinch-runner Mikayla Leakey, followed by RBI singles off the bats of sophomore Payton Gillen and freshman Sarah Mccown.
Gillen, who was 2-for-3 with a career-high four RBI in Game One, then brought Cloud County all the way back within one when she smashed a three-run, bases clearing double into the left-field corner that made it an 8-7 game.
"She did her job hitting the ball up the middle and to the right side all day," Acree said of Gillen. "She had been struggling a little bit coming in, so it was great to see her have a good day swinging the bat."
Gillen would trot home one batter later with the game-tying run on a double by freshman Mattison Hogrefe into right-center.
She finished 3-for-4 with and sophomore Alyssa Corpus was 2-for-4 to help lead the Cloud County offense in Game One.
Unfortunately for the T-Birds, their rally ended there as Hogrefe was stranded at second base to end the sixth, and Cloud County was unable to push across the winning run in the bottom of the seventh after loading the bases with two out.
"All the momentum was on our side after tying the game up, and we had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the seventh," Acree said. "But the momentum changed again after we couldn't get that last big hit. We struck out a couple times looking the last few innings and we can't do that. As a coach, I want us going down fighting and swinging the bat in those situations."
Cowley capitalized on the momentum swing to score four runs in the top of the eighth — all four unearned — to hold on for the 12-9 victory.
As for Game Two, the T-Birds were able to take a 3-1 lead early on the Tigers, scoring all of their runs in a three-run second inning that included an RBI single from Gillen and two-run single by Hogrefe.
From the second inning on, though, the Cloud County offense was held off the scoreboard by Cowley's pitcher, Ashton Friend.
"She (Friend) was throwing inside, and we were unable to get our hands out through the ball," Acree said. "Then she'd occasionally go outside on us and we were in pull mode. We have to recognize pitches better and a little earlier."
The Tigers tied the game with two unearned runs in the top of the third inning, then took the lead for good with two more unearned runs in the top of the sixth.
Hogrefe was saddled with the loss in Game Two after throwing seven innings, allowing just one earned run, and striking out two. She was also 2-for-3 with the two RBI at the plate in the finale, making her 5-for-7 with four RBI on the afternoon.
Wells had two hits from the leadoff spot for the T-Birds and freshman left-fielder Kara Chisolm was 2-for-3 in her Game Two start to lead the Cloud County offense.
Up next for the T-Birds will be a road trip on Saturday to face off against Allen County Community College. Game times are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
"They are going to be scrappy," Acree said of the Red Devils. "We'll have to go down there, play well and learn how to win (Region VI games) on the road. We can definitely do it."