In their home opener of the 2013 season Saturday, the Norfolk High softball team dropped a pair of games to Grand Island — both by large margins.
The Panthers lost the first game 16-1 in six innings and dropped game two 12-0 in three innings.
In the first game, in spite of what coach Chuck Hughes labeled “self-inflicted” problems during the first three innings, the Panthers initially were able to hold Grand Island at bay. Even though the Islanders had two runners on base in each of the first three innings, they didn't score.
Norfolk managed a run in the bottom of the third to take a 1-0 lead when Sawyer McCarter, who had reached on a soft liner to right field, advanced to second on Haley Lamm's fielder's choice and scored on Malia Gass' base hit to right.
But Grand Island answered with a five-run fourth inning, scoring on four hits, three walks, and a Norfolk error before the Panthers could record an out.
The Panthers were unable to score again the rest of the way, while the Islanders added another 11 runs to lock up the 16-1 win.
“In the fourth, their lead-off hitter got on base with a single,” Hughes said. “Then what kind of got it started was that girl stole second. We had her thrown out but didn't hold on to the ball. We also didn't throw to the correct base twice that inning. We bobbled a couple plays at first and at home, and before long there went the momentum we had built up to that point with the one-run lead. They just took advantage of our mistakes.”
In the fifth inning, Grand Island added three runs with two outs capitalizing on three hits and an error before things fell apart even more for the Panthers with eight more Islander runs in the sixth inning.
“We talk a lot about mental toughness,” Hughes said. “We do a lot during the summer to build mental toughness, but we just had some breakdowns and we couldn't overcome them. If you don't play smart at this level, good teams will take advantage of your mistakes and it can start to snowball on you. That's what good teams do, and Grand Island is a good team.”
Jill Orwig took the loss on the mound, striking out six while surrendering 13 hits with seven walks and four hit-batsmen.
Lindsay Telecky got the win for Grand Island. Telecky gave up five hits while striking out eight Norfolk batters and walking two.
Lakyn McCarter, Gass and Skylar Johnson each had a base hit while Sawyer McCarter contributed two hits to Norfolk's five-hit total.
Grand Island scored 12 runs on 10 hits in game two en route to its 12-0 run-rule victory.
The Islanders scored six runs each in the second and third innings. Meanwhile Norfolk's offense was unable to mount a scoring threat. Emma Kwapnioski provided the Panthers' only hit in the game.
Kaylani Pekny was credited with the loss as the pitcher of record for Norfolk. Skylar Johnson pitched in relief. The pair walked four with one strikeout and one hit batsman.
Jessica Kleine went the distance on the mound for Grand Island striking out three and walking one while giving up one hit in three innings of work.
On the positive side for Norfolk, Hughes said Johnson seemed to stay healthy during her two innings of pitching and hopes to use her on the mound on Tuesday. Hughes also felt that the Panthers did well on the base paths.
“Kat Godfrey and Emma Kwapnioski each took an extra base with the ball in the dirt,” Hughes said. “That was definitely a positive. We did the little things on the base paths, but now we have to add the little things to what we're doing on defense. I knew these first four games were going to be tough for our inexperienced team. Hopefully, having Skylar back in the circle will elevate everybody because they know what she's capable of.”
The Panthers will go on the road this week with doubleheaders at Lincoln Northeast on Tuesday and Kearney on Thursday before heading to Lincoln on Saturday for the Lincoln Public Schools Tournament.
Grand Island ........... 000 538 — 16 13 0
Norfolk .................... 001 000 — 1 5 3
WP: Lindsay Telecky. LP: Jill Orwig. 2B: (GI) Telecky.
Norfolk .................... 000 — 0 1 1
Grand Island ........... 066 — 12 10 0
WP: Jessica Kleine. LP: Kaylani Pekny. 2B: (GI) Melissa Cuellar, Emily Sanders. 3B: (GI) Allie Richardson.