CONCORDIA, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College softball team closed out the 2019 regular season Thursday by hosting Fort Scott Community College on Sophomore Day, earning a doubleheader split with the visiting Greyhounds.
Cloud County (11-27 overall, 4-16 Region VI) used a big first inning, and a strong pitching performance from freshman Mattison Hogrefe, to earn a 3-1 victory in Game One, but had a late rally fall just shy in a 5-4 loss in Game Two to Fort Scott (13-29, 3-15 Region VI).
"We had to get one win, certainly," said Cloud County head coach Aaron Acree. The win leaves the T-Birds a game ahead of Fort Scott in the Region VI standings while the Greyhounds still having two games against Johnson County to play. "It'd have been nice to get them both, but it was nice to get the one to close out at home."
The T-Birds put up all three of their runs in the Game One victory in the first inning, with two coming across on a home run launched to left-center by freshman Jacie Marcotte, scoring freshman catcher Emily Wells after she led off the inning with a single.
For Marcotte, the home run was her team-leading sixth of the season and the 19th long ball of the year for the T-Birds as a team.
Cloud County added a third run when sophomore Alyssa Corpus doubled to center, moved to third on a single by fellow sophomore Payton Gillen, then scored on fielder's choice off the bat of freshman Kara Chisolm.
Hogrefe took over from there inside the pitcher's circle as the freshman right-hander limited Fort Scott to two runs on eight scattered hits while striking out eight.
The Greyhounds pushed across their second run in the top of the seventh, set up by a soft single and bloop double to center that dropped after being caught in the swirling winds. Fort Scott had runners on second and third with one out, but Hogrefe was able to minimize the damage, getting a pair of strikeouts sandwiched around an infield single to nail down the 3-2 win.
"Mattison did her job in the first game, got ahead in the count and we played pretty well behind her, defensively," Acree said. "She got out a big jam there in the seventh. It was huge. She keeps progressing nicely and gaining confidence."
As for Game Two, the T-Birds were in a 5-0 hole heading to the bottom of the sixth inning before they struck for four runs, capitalizing a costly error in the inning by Fort Scott.
Back-to-back doubles from Marcotte and Corpus opened the inning for Cloud County to put runners on second and third. Marcotte came home on a RBI single by Gillen. Corpus scored one batter later on an error, a dropped throw at first base, by the Greyhounds.
Two batters later, Wells served a two-run single into shallow left-field that drove in freshman Kennedy Doherty and Gillen.
Cloud County nearly tied the game on a smash to center by Hogrefe, but Fort Scott center fielder Olivia Chenoweth made a diving catch to end the inning that robbed Hogrefe of extra-bases.
Unfortunately for the T-Birds, their rally ended there as they were unable to push across a run in the home-half of the seventh, falling by the 5-4 final.
"We lagged behind with the hitting (Thursday). We were trying to do too much," Acree said. "We scored in two of the 14 innings today and we can't do that. We have to be able to generate offense more often and consistently."
Wells and freshman second baseman Mikayla Bletscher each had two hits in Game Two to pace the Cloud County offense.
Defensively, sophomore right fielder Kelsey Bowers had two outfield assists on the day as she threw out a pair of Fort Scott runners at third base.
"All five of them have contributed while they've been here and will be challenging holes to fill," said Acree of his sophomore class. "They've been big assets to the program and hopefully we can find more players like them."
The T-Birds will now turn their attention toward postseason play when the NJCAA Region VI Division II District E Tournament gets underway next Saturday and Sunday, May 4-5.
With regular season games still remaining for some Region VI teams, Cloud County's first-round opponent was not set as of Thursday evening. The T-Birds will head on the road in the first round for a best-of-three series, aiming to make their second consecutive trip to Hummer Park; site of the District E final rounds.
"We'll give the girls a little time off, which we'll need, then pick it back up next week and try to make a run in the postseason," Acree said.