EDWARDSVILLE - Sydney Lawrence hit a first inning two-run homer to get things started, then Edwardsville took advantage of Granite City errors and good hitting to score eight runs in the third, then added six more in the fourth to take a 16-0 win over the Warriors in Edwardsville's season opener Thursday afternoon at the Tigers' softball park.
It was the first game for Edwardsville in nearly two years, with the 2020 season cancelled by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and Tigers head coach Lori Blade and her team were very happy to be back playing.
"Yes, it was great to be out here," Blade said. "Great to see the kids getting to play, the excitement that they have is worth every bit of it, so it's awesome to be out here."
The Tigers scored in every inning but the second, and got timely hitting throughout the game.
"You know, I'm really pleased with how they did," Blade said, "because they hit some balls really hard. They hit some balls really hard. and that's what I want to see. You can't necessarily go by, you know, the hits or whatever, because some kids get hit hard, and it's right at somebody; you know how that goes. But when we had good pitch selection, we hit the ball hard. And that's what we have to learn to understand a bit better, as inexperienced as we are."
Lawrence had an excellent day at the plate, going two-for-three with two runs scored and three RBIs, including her first inning homer. And the rest of the lineup wasn't too bad either.
"They did," Blade said. "She (Lawrence) had a great start, and it was a good pitch to hit, her timing was good, and she tagged it pretty good. So that was awesome to see at the top of the order."
Ryleigh Owens went the distance, allowing only one hit and two base runners, fanning five.
"I thought Ryleigh threw very well," Blade said. "She gave up the one hit, and that was probably on me as much as anything on the pitch location. But I was really pleased with her, And we've got a really good challenge tomorrow from Freeburg; they've got some really good pitching. So we'll see right away where we're going to be with that."
It was Owens' first start of the season after coming in as a reliever during her freshman season in 2019, and pitched exceptionally well.
"She did, but she's a competitor," Blade said. "You don't see that out of her, because she's such a good kid, really easygoing. But boy, when you put her in to compete, she is going to put it on the line, and I had to get on her yesterday. I put her in left field, and she made two diving catches, like wait a minute," she said with a laugh. "I love the effort, but come on, we've got to be smarter than that as a pitcher. But that's just in her. that's not just compete and go all-around and react to it, and do whatever she can. So I was really pleased with where she's been throwing the ball very well."
The Warriors are a very young team that battled to the end and never gave up.
"Yes, we're really pleased," said Granite coach Tim Wilson. "We're a young squad, we only have a few seniors out here. Taking two years off, not many of them have varsity experience. So they get in a situation like that, where the team starts steamrolling them, it takes them awhile to get used to it. You've got to learn how to get out of that situation. But they kept battling, it's a tough one. They come out and hit the ball, they're going to make you make the plays, and unfortunately, they didn't make some of those plays today."
Still, Wilson and the Warriors are very happy to be back on the field and playing.
"We're glad to be out here," Wilson said. "It's our second game, didn't have a good showing today, but we'd rather be out here than be in the gym any day."
Wilson has a simple goal for his team this season.
"Our motto is right now 'better tomorrow than we were today,'" Wilson said. "So we learn from our mistakes, we gain from our successes, and you know, our goal is just keep improving. If we can go off the field every day and say we did our best, and we're better today than we were yesterday, that's what we keep working at."
Granite's effort has been exceptional even though the Warriors have dropped their first two games, a 3-1 loss at home to Mascoutah and Thursday's loss to the Tigers.
"You know, effort is not the problem," Wilson said, "and the girls, they're putting forth the effort. We have to work on when a team starts getting on you, how do you get out of it? And keeping the mental game of it going."
Edwardsville got out on top in the first inning, starting with a one out single by Lexi Gorniak and Lawrence's homer over the right field fence on a 2-0 count to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead. Edwardsville then broke it open with their eight-run third, starting with an infield single by Gorniak, who went to third when the throw went out of play. Gorniak scored on an RBI single by Brooke Tolle one out later, and Tolle's hit started a streak when five Tiger batters reached base. A single by Abbie Hall and an RBI single by Jayna Connoyer brought home Tolle, Sam Sanders drew a walk, and Owens helped herself with an RBI single that brought home Hall to make it 5-0. With two out, Avery Hamilton reached on an error to bring home two more runs, Gorniak had her second hit of the inning, and a two-run double by Lawrence made it 10-0, with Lawrence being thrown out at third to end the inning.
Tayler Hope tripled to the right-center field fence to open the fourth, Hall was hit by a pitch, and a ground out by Connoyer brought home another run to make it 11-0. Four straight singles by Sanders, Owens, Maci McNamee and Hamilton brought in three more runs, with Gorniak reaching on an error and a sacrifice fly from Lawrence made it 15-0. Walks to both Hope and Hall brought in the game-ending run.
Owens pitched well, allowing only two baserunners, Kayla Huskamp reaching on an error to start the game and a fourth inning single by Brooke Donohue for the Warriors' only hit.
Granite is now 0-2 on the season, and plays at Alton next Tuesday, then hosts Collinsville Apr. 28. Wilson is very happy to be back, and looks forward to the Warriors playing as much as possible.
"Yep, getting back in there, getting the mistakes fixed, and getting back out there next week," Wilson said.
The Tigers face a strong Freeburg team at home on Friday, then have back-to-back home games against Piasa Southwestern on Tuesday and Civic Memorial on Thursday. Blade is looking ahead to the upcoming challenges, and is also very happy to be back on the field as well.
"it is," Blade said with a smile. "Can't say enough about that."