By Jimmy Stinson
A new season of fastpitch softball is here and some new faces can be found in the dugout of the Muskogee Lady Roughers.
But it was familiar faces from last year that propelled the Lady Roughers to victory in their 2013 debut Thursday at Lady Roughers Park. Returning starters Shaylee Rowland and Aubrey Johnson helped key Muskogee to a 6-2 victory over the visiting Bartlesville Lady Bruins.
Rowland and Johnson both went 3-for-4 at the plate with each picking up an RBI and together scored half of Muskogee's total runs.
Johnson led off the game with a double to left center and advanced to third on a stolen base. Muskogee's next batter, shortstop Brooke Hendrickson drew a walk from Lady Bruin pitcher Mary Atherton. Hendrickson turned the corner at first and attempted to take second but got caught in a rundown that was good enough for Johnson to score easily.
Rowland, batting in the third spot in the lineup, singled sharply and advanced to second on a stolen base. Walks drawn by Dee Emarthle and Carlee Gann loaded the bases for Kaitlyn Kaiser. Kaiser, 1-for-2 on the day, picked up an RBI the easy way when she managed a walk to put Muskogee up 2-0.
Starting in the circle for Muskogee, Rowland cruised through the first three innings, striking out five of the first 10 batters she faced. The only blemish came on a two out bloop single by Bartlesville's Rachel Day.
"Pitching-wise, I just tried to hit my spots, I've had a little trouble with that lately," said Rowland.
Bartlesville cut the lead to one in the fourth inning when Rowland's trouble with hitting her spots showed up. Ali Gute and Kirsten Kauk drew walks and Gute scored on a single by Mikayla Mahlo. The Bruins could have added more but Mahlo was gunned down while trying to leg her hit into a double, on a sharp throw from leftfielder Nia Maxwell.
Muskogee answered in the bottom of the fourth when Bailee Hendrickson singled, reached second on an error and stole third. Johnson picked up her RBI on a double to left center. Muskogee plated two more runs in the fifth inning after Emarthle singled and Lexi Watson walked. Gann singled and drove in Emarthle, followed by a single by Kaiser. Maxwell picked up an RBI but this one was done the hard way when she was hit by a pitch from reliever Kauk.
The last Lady Rougher run came in the sixth inning and it was those familiar faces again. Johnson led off with a single and was driven in on Rowland's third hit of the day.
The Lady Bruins only other run came in the fifth when Rowland found herself in a little trouble again. A lead off fly out was followed by a walk and back to back singles to load the bases. A grounder back to Rowland in the circle cut down a runner at the plate, but a walk drawn by Gute scored the lone run.
Muskogee got out of the inning when Kauk grounded to Johnson at second and with a short toss to Hendrickson at second and the Lady Roughers were out of the jam.
"It was good to get a win on the first game out," said Muskogee coach Keith Coleman, "I thought we did just enough to win. Shaylee did a good job in the circle for us. Offensively we didn't swing it as well as I think we can. We ran the bases well. All in all it was a good win."
Emarthle finished the game 2-for-3 with a run scored, while Gann and Kaiser were both 1-for-2 with an RBI each and Bailee Hendrickson was 1-for-3 with a run scored.
Muskogee returns to action tomorrow at the Broken Arrow tournament facing Edmond-Deer Creek at 10, Oologah at 11:30 a.m. and Sapulpa at 5 p.m.