On Wednesday’s cool, spring afternoon, Francis Scott Key’s softball team avenged a March loss to Liberty, securing a statement victory, 10-3.
Despite another offensive outburst from the Eagles, the most critical play of the game likely came from their defense. With two on and nobody out and the Lions still within striking distance, Liberty’s Haleigh Hodges hit a line drive that was grabbed from the air by FSK shortstop Emma Tawney. She raced to touch second base to get one runner out, then fired to first base to get another for a triple play.
It was a spark of momentum that propelled the Eagles into their myriad of late-game runs.
Eagles’ head coach Steve French noted that he was pleasantly surprised by the play. “That was big … kind of unheard of really,” he said.
The early innings proved to be stressors for FSK, primarily in its offensive technique. Several hitters swung frantically after an inning without score, but Liberty seized the moment to surge ahead 1-0 in the second inning off an RBI single from Erin Martin.
After falling behind, FSK responded with newfound gusto. Brianna Dehoff drove in two massive runs in the third inning, Jasmine Kline brought home another and Kendall Jackman chased home Dehoff, which shot the Eagles ahead 4-1 by the end of the inning.
This would not be the end of FSK’s momentum. Despite another push from Liberty that got the Lions within a run, the Eagles kept firing right back, scoring four more in the top of the fifth to push the lead to 8-3. Caitlyn Miller added a home run in the seventh inning for the Eagles. Miller and Jackman each drove in three runs in the game.
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Despite Liberty’s valiant effort to climb against the odds — utilizing sacrifice plays, advancing runners, and drawing walks to its advantage — the runs against their favor continued to grow at an exponential pace.
Meanwhile, Kline’s persistence in the circle paid off. She picked up speed as the innings progressed, throwing Liberty off its original rhythm. Kline finished the game with 10 strikeouts.
French cited improvement and study from their previous game against Liberty as fuel for their success.
“Our defense was a lot more solid today, that first game against Liberty was our second game of the season and we’ve just kinda shored up a lot of things since then,” he said.
This strengthened strategy, coupled with their endless pursuit and grit on the field, coasted the Eagles out of quick defensive innings into long stretches of offensive opportunity.
The triumphant Eagles, especially French, are optimistic for the future. Their hitting averages for the season have boosted their confidence to new heights.
“I think we just need to stay hot and keep hitting the ball,” he said. “As a team we’re hitting over .450, which is kinda huge, averaging 11 runs a game, so those girls are putting in work and I think they’re doing a great job.”