By Jon Gremmels
Herald Sports Editor
One bad inning.
While it might have been the difference between a split and a sweep for Clinton in a softball doubleheader Thursday at Davenport Assumption, just a few years ago it probably would have meant the River Queens would step on the bus with a pair of Mississippi Athletic Conference losses.
Not this time, though.
The River Queens rebounded from a disastrous sixth inning in a 9-2 opening-game loss and won the second contest 11-5 to earn the road split against the Knights, who had been ranked ninth in the state until the new poll came out Thursday.
“We’ve gotten stronger mentally as a team,” Clinton sophomore catcher Cara Brewer said. “A lot of people say, ‘Oh, it’s Clinton; we’re going to sweep Clinton.’ No, you’re not going to sweep Clinton.”
Certainly not on this warm, sunny day.
“In the first game, we had them all the way,” Clinton senior shortstop Keirstyn Davis said. “It was just that one bad inning, and that’s what we talked about in between games. We just had to eliminate that one error-full inning.
“We came out aggressive with the bats and got the win we knew we should have had the first time.”
The River Queens (3-8, 3-5 MAC) wasted no time sulking after the disappointing loss.
Brewer started a two-run first inning with a one-out walk, then hustled to second to beat the throw as Taylor Altemeier reached on a fielder’s choice. Davis followed with a hit off the handle of the bat that found its way into center field to bring in Brewer, Sara Judge walked to load the bases, then Kayla Altemeier hit a ball to second baseman Jamie Miller, who tried for the out at the plate but was unsuccessful.
Assumption (7-13, 2-6) got one run back in the bottom of the first, then it was the Knights’ turn to throw the ball around. Clinton paired five hits with four Assumption errors in a six-run second inning that put the Queens in control.
Hunter Chapman reached on an error by shortstop Maddy Matthys to open the inning, then she made it all the way to third when catcher Clair Bird tried a pickoff throw to first and threw the ball into right field. An infield single by Rebecca Divarco made it 3-1, and before the inning ended on a double play flyout-throwout-at-the-plate, Taylor Altemeier, Judge and Courtney Harlock had added run-scoring singles, one run scored on an error and another came in on a wild pitch.
Harlock struggled in the pitchers circle in the second inning, allowing one run on a wild pitch and another on Mary Kate Kilfoy’s single, before exiting with one out and two runners on. Halee Vicks came in to pitch and gave up a two-out, two-run double to Bird to trim the lead to 8-4. But, Vicks didn’t allow another hit the rest of the game.
Meanwhile, Clinton added to its total by stealing a pair of runs in the third and scoring its final run on a wild pitch in the fourth.
The third-inning runs came with two outs on a pair of delayed steals by the Davis sisters. With Sydney Davis on third, Keirstyn Davis broke from first and stopped halfway to second as she drew the throw from Bird. As Keirstyn Davis got in a long rundown, Sydney Davis scored, and, eventually, a high throw allowed Keirstyn Davis to reach second. She went to third on a single by Judge, then they worked a double steal for another run.
“We’ve been trying to be aggressive on the bases,” Keirstyn Davis said. “With runners on first and third, you get in a pickle and try to score the runner from third.”
Davis, who had two hits in the first game, went 3-for-3 with a pair of walks in the second contest.
“It is frustrating,” she said of the times Assumption pitched around her. “I do like hitting, but it gets me on base and, overall, helps the team, so it’s all right.”
The real frustration came in the first game -- more precisely, late in the first game.
The River Queens had just snapped a 1-1 tie on doubles by Keirstyn and Sydney Davis in the top of the sixth when everything fell apart in the bottom half.
“One run is not a cushion in softball,” Clinton coach Trina Cewe said. “There’s no safe lead.”
Pitcher Sydney Davis, who had wiggled out of bases-loaded jams in the second and third innings, retired the first batter in the sixth on a popup and appeared headed for a second out when Hannah Guy hit the ball toward second. But Clinton couldn’t make the defensive play, and the Knights pounced on the opportunity.
“We’ve had that snowball effect before,” Cewe said. “I hoped it wouldn’t turn out big, but it did.”
Matthys ripped a double down the left-field line to tie the game and advanced to third on an error on the play. She scored the go-ahead run on Kilfoy’s slap single to center field. By the time the inning was over, the Knights had sent 13 batters to plate, taken advantage of four Clinton errors and scored eight runs.
“We weren’t in it mentally,” Keirstyn Davis said.
That’s a problem that might have had a hangover effect in previous years, but not this time, and the Queens were happy to head home with the split.
“It (a split) always feels great on road, especially in the MAC,” Keirstyn Davis said.
“It was a good win for us; it could have been two, and that’s the only disappointing thing,” Cewe said.
Except for one bad inning, though, there was a lot for her and her team to like.
“We’ve had problems with errors a lot of the time, and if we can clean up our errors we’re a very solid team,” Brewer said.
DAVENPORT ASSUMPTION 9, CLINTON 2
Clinton 100 001 0 -- 2 6 5
Assumption 000 108 x -- 9 8 0
Sydney Davis, Courtney Harlock (6) and Cara Brewer; Jamie Miller and Clair Bird. Multiple hits -- Clinton (Keirstyn Davis 2); Assumption (Maddy Matthys 3, Mary Kate Kilfoy 2). 2B -- Clinton (Taylor Altemeier, K. Davis, S. Davis); Assumption (Matthys 2, Kaitlyn Andresen). RBIs -- Clinton (Sara Judge, S. Davis); Assumption (Kilfoy, Matthys 2, Andresen, Emma Valainis, Ruthie Neff 2).
CLINTON 11, ASSUMPTION 5
Clinton 262 100 0 -- 11 12 1
Assumption 140 000 0 -- 5 4 5
Harlock (1 1/3 ip, 3 h, 5 r, 2 er, 2 bb, 0 so), Halee Vicks (5 2/3 ip, 1 h, 0 r, 5 bb, 0 so) and Brewer; Neff (7 ip, 12 h, 11 r, 7 er, 7 bb, 3 so) and Bird. Multiple hits -- Clinton (T. Altemeier 2, K. Davis 3, Judge 2); Assumption (Matthys 2). 2B --Clinton (K. Davis); Assumption (Matthys, Bird). RBIs -- Clinton (K. Davis, Kayla Altemeier, Rebecca Divarco, T. Altemeier, Judge, Harlock); Assumption (Kilfoy, Bird 2).