Nevertheless, she persisted to take advantage of two-strike pitching.
Oakleaf’s Rebecca Koskey and Angela Agurkis did so in the first inning and Agurkis managed the feat again in the second to break open a nondistrict softball game between the Knights and Bartram Trail on Wednesday night in St. Johns.
The Knights used a six-run second inning to beat Bartram Trail 8-2 in a contest that pitted one of Northeast Florida’s most dynamic offenses against two of the region’s best pitchers.
A Bartram Trail squad that averaged 10.1 runs per game entering the game was held to four hits and a pair of runs on its home field. The Bears (4-3) dropped their third game of the week with a performance that head coach Jen Harman said afterward was not their best.
Harman, who has led the Bears to every one of the program’s 398 wins, said a 3-2 loss to Creekside on Tuesday night might have had a lingering impact 24 hours later.
“It’s tough to bounce back from (Tuesday) night, because I thought the girls fought hard. (Tuesday) night is an emotional game in general. We rallied in the seventh and came back and had some interesting calls that kind of affected the game. (Wednesday) night was tough. We got down early, if we don’t have that one bad inning, we can definitely play with them.”
That one bad inning began with a Haley Willis single to right field. Two batters later, Oakleaf’s No. 9 hitter Tracey Ferguson hit a 3-2 pitch to center field for a single to drive in Jenna Curtis, who entered as a courtesy runner for Willis.
A throwing error by Bartram Trail’s third baseman allowed two more Knights to score and give the visitors at 4-0 lead. A single by Madison Mifsud as well as a hit by pitch loaded the bases for Agurkis, who drove in the game’s first run on a two-strike pitch in the first inning.
Agurkis ran the count full and, on the 10th pitch of the at-bat, laced a triple just inside the third base line. Mika Garcia, Mifsud and Bailey Goddard all came around to score to give the Knights a 7-0 lead. Agurkis’ second straight run-scoring hit led to the removal of Bartram Trail starter Nicole Massanko. The junior first baseman finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
“We really went into it with an offensive approach,” said Oakleaf coach Christina Thompson. “We were not going to be defensive hitters. We were going to be aggressive and attack. With two strikes, we choke up. If I can hit it, I’m putting a bat on it. We’re not going to put it in the umpire’s hands.”
Of the 34 plate appearances the Knights made on Wednesday, only one ended with a strikeout. But, by that point, it was the sixth inning and the visitors had an 8-2 lead.
Oakleaf (5-2) began the season nationally ranked by maxpreps.com and only recently dropped out of the poll. Despite facing a Bartram lineup that featured Savannah Parker — Northeast Florida’s most notorious home run hitter – as well as Reedy Davenport, the 2016 St. Johns County Player of the Year, Thompson said she always intended to let Madi Davis and Kelsey Sweatt pitch on Wednesday night.
Davis started the game, pitching four innings, allowed two runs, only one of which was earned, and conceded three hits. When the sophomore left the game, Oakleaf had a six-run advantage; however, the top of the Bears lineup was on-deck.
“I’m pleased with the way we adjusted to the first pitcher, we struggled with her at first, but we made the adjustments, got on her and they made the pitching change, which was smart on their part, because we were on that girl,” Harman said. “I think we were capable of busing out six runs at one time. I think everyone knows that.”
Whether it was Davis, or Sweatt both Oakleaf pitchers had the speed and the spin to pitch on the inside half of the plate. Doing so meant the Bears had to respect every quadrant of the strike zone.
“We knew we were going to split them,” Thompson said. “They needed the work. We have two games on Saturday. I wholeheartedly believed she could have gone the duration. We didn’t pull her because of performance. She kept their hitters off balance, she hit her spots and she changed velocity.”
Riley Condon’s grounder to third led to a pair of throwing errors from Oakleaf and allowed Jenae Wash to score from first with one out in the second inning.
The Bears scored their second run of the game on a single to center field by Olivia Creamer with the bases loaded. Freshman Maegan O’Brien scored from third, and the Bears tried to send Davenport home as well; however, Ferguson’s outfield throw to Willis was a strike. The Oakleaf catcher popped up, tagged out Davenport for the inning’s first out, and Davis managed the threat from there.
Bartram Trail put two more runners in scoring position in the final four innings of the game, but never threatened to score.