It was a mix of inexperience, first game jitters and a strong opposing pitcher which saw the Willow Run High School girl’s softball team drop its season-opener 13-4 to Westland Huron Valley Lutheran High School at home Tuesday.
The Flyers were limited to seven hits and made three fielding errors in the first year since Willow Run High School is playing with no JV teams due to budget constraints.
Westland Huron Valley Lutheran jumped on Flyers starter Katie Mullins in the first inning with three straight singles to take a 2-0 lead. Mullins, a junior this year, was the starting pitcher in what few games the Willow Run JV team played last season. Coach Duane Edwards called her up to varsity to get her more experience but last season’s senior starter continued to limit her field time.
“I think I was prepared for it because I’ve been pitching with last year’s varsity starter since last season,” said Mullins, who was admittedly nervous. “I felt like I could have done a little bit better but more games to come so we’ll see.”
Willow Run came back in the bottom of the first when Elisa Rateliff’s single followed lead-off walks by Mullins and Daviana Gustafson to load the bases. The Flyers could only push one across as Hawks pitcher Lauren Jones struck out the inning’s final two batters and ended with six strike-outs in the game.
Mullins settled down to pitch a no-hit second inning but got touched up for two more runs in the third. It appeared the nerves were back for Mullins because she had trouble keeping her pitches down.
Willow Run conceded two more runs in the fourth inning on a fielder’s choice and an error. Edwards said the lack of experience was evident but he expects Mullins to only get stronger as the season progresses.
Flyers left fielder Taylor Shaffer made it 6-2 in the fourth when she scored on a wild pitch. Three batters later, Gustafson, a senior catcher, looked like she had an RBI single but Taylor Hernandez was thrown out at home.
From there, Jones got out of another jam in the fifth before senior first baseman Emalee McCurdy hit what looked like a sure-thing home run off of a Hawks reliever in the sixth inning. McCirdy’s ball hit the top of the left field fence and ended up as a two-run, standup triple, and made the score 9-4.
McCurdy had struggled in her first two at bats of the young season and Edwards said he’s going to need her, his best hitter, to be there for him this season.
“She was just so anxious the first two times but then she settled down,” Edwards said of McCurdy. “But that’s just Emily. That was her all of last year. I don’t know how many times she’s hit the fence like that. She’s going to be a big factor for us this season.
More sloppy defense from the Flyers saw Westland Huron Valley Lutheran add four more runs in the top of the seventh.
“I hope we get better and everyone’s attitudes come together and we play as a team because right now we’re not playing as a team,” team captain McCurdy said of her young team’s attitude and focus.
Willow Run plays a double-header at 4 p.m. Thursday at Robichaud High School in Dearborn.