Softball returned at Columbia Academy Friday night, and the Lady Cougars made their home faithful glad they came out for the season opener.
The Lady Cougars (3-2) jumped out to a huge lead early on, scoring 10 first-inning runs, and added six more in the second for a 16-0 win over Prentiss Christian in first-year head coach Kyle Wilks’ debut.
“We played well and really hit the ball well Friday against Prentiss Christian. We had a good crowd, and I thought it went really well,” he said.
Bailey Buckley started the onslaught by swiping home on a wild pitch before Megan Rowley drove in a pair with an infield single. Trenity Key then muscled a two-run double to left field and later scored on an error. Buckley also added a two-run triple, and Kyla Williams had an RBI single in the first inning.
Buckley also plated two more with a double to right center in the second inning and got the win in the circle while striking out two in three innings of one-hit ball. Rowley was just as productive at the dish with 3 RBI on three singles.
The Lady Cougars headed to Magee Saturday to participate in the Simpson Tournament and played three very different games.
Less than 14 hours after producing 16 runs in two innings on 12 hits, Columbia Academy was no-hit by Copiah Academy in a 10-0 loss in its morning contest. The Lady Cougars also struggled mightily defensively with seven errors and walking five in three innings.
In its first afternoon matchup, Columbia Academy got the bats back on track with seven hits and a Buckley home run, but it wasn’t enough in a 9-5 loss to Canton Academy. Infield defense cost the Lady Cougars with four errors as Buckley delivered once again in the circle. After Presley Dease surrendered two earned runs on two walks in one-plus innings, Buckley only gave up one earned on three hits and no walks while striking out six in four innings but yielded five unearned runs.
The Lady Cougars got back to .500 while playing a much cleaner game in their last contest of the day against Presbyterian Christian, winning 9-6. They only had four hits but walked eight times, and PCS made four errors.
Rowley drove in three runs with a single and a fielder’s choice, Buckley plated a run with a triple and Williams was credited with an RBI while walking in all three plate appearances. Alana Bullock picked up the win, striking out four while allowing three earned runs on four hits and two walks.
“We made some costly errors in both of those games (Copiah and Canton) and the pitchers struggled a little bit, then we came back and beat PCS in our third game. The biggest thing for us to be successful is the pitchers have to throw strikes, and we have to make plays behind them,” Wilks said. “If we do that, we’re going to be in a lot of ball games. When we don’t it can get away from us pretty quick, and that’s kind of what happened in those first two games Saturday.”
Wilks said he liked the way Buckley, Rowley and Maggie Wilks have been hitting to begin the season and that there are still some starters working on their timing against live pitching.
CA committed 12 errors in its first four games, and Wilks said the Lady Cougars are going to need to make the most of its limited practice time with such a jam-packed schedule.
“One thing about our season is once it starts we play a lot of games, and it really doesn’t allow us a lot of time for practice. But the biggest thing we need to work on is continuing to take ground balls as much as we can just to get a lot of reps,” he said. “That’s one of those things that isn’t the most fun thing ever, but it is necessary to be able to get better at it.”
Outside of Dease issuing seven walks in three innings at PCS Monday night, everything came together for the Lady Cougars in a dominant 31-5 win. CA pounced with 19 first-inning runs and kept the onslaught rolling with eight more in the second and four in the third.
Williams compiled 5 RBI with two singles and two walks, Buckley drove in three with two doubles and a single and Molly Sauls had 4 RBI on a single and two walks. As a team the Lady Cougars had 12 hits and walked 17 times in the three-inning run-rule shortened contest. Dease got the win in the circle and struck out four while allowing five runs, and the defense played its best game of the young season by not committing an error.
Wilks added he believes the more games the Lady Cougars play together the better they are going to get because they are still relatively new to each other with several playing travel ball during the summer.
“I feel like after this week we’ll be able to see what we’ve got. We play six varsity games (in eight days) after playing four Friday and Saturday,” he said. “We’ll be able to know what we’ve got going into district play next Monday.”
The Lady Cougars used five pitchers in their first five games, and Wilks is hoping one or two rise to the top of the rotation.
“Bailey has pitched really well, but we’ve got to have more than that to really get where we want to get,” he said.
The Lady Cougars will host PCS in a rematch Thursday, play at Simpson Academy Saturday and head to Hattiesburg for a tournament at PCS Saturday before hosting Wayne Academy Monday in their first district game of the year.
Pictured Above: Columbia Academy's Kyla Williams rips a base hit against Prentiss Christian Friday. | Photo by Joshua Campbell