Cougars go 5-for-5 in Florida

By Don Brown

April 9, 2014

Behind the strength of some outstanding individual performances, the Cougar softball team won all five of its games last week in the Florida Beach Bash, held at Fort Walton Beach.

With the five Florida wins, the Cougars come home riding an eight-game winning streak. Asked if her team exceeded expectations on the trip south, head coach Jordan Clemons said that wasn’t the case.

“Actually, we went down there and told them at the beginning of the week, before we had played any games, that we expected five wins,” she said. “We took it game-by-game, and had a little countdown after each win and we wound up meeting our goal.”

At the start of the week, the directors of the Beach Bash gave each team two individual trophies to be handed out to the players the teams judged had performed the best. The Grayson County trophies went to seniors Kaylan Shull and Megan England.

“Without a doubt, hands-down, that’s the best I’ve seen Kaylan play,” Clemons said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better performance.”

In the five games, Shull had 14 hits in 20 at-bats, a .700 average, including four doubles and a triple. Shull drove in seven runs, including the winning run in the 3-2, come-from-behind win over Lawrence County. Shull also scored nine runs during the week.

England, the Cougar leadoff hitter and a Brescia University signee, hit .428 for the week, including a pair of doubles, and scored nine runs.

“Those two compliment each other so well,” Clemons said. “Megan gets on base and Kaylan drives her in.”

Clemons said it was a very close vote between England and freshman Kara Decker for that last trophy. Decker had 10 hits in 17 at-bats, for a .588 average. She had two doubles, nine RBI and scored three runs. She had three RBI take away from her when a three-run home run was nullified when England was called for leaving the bag too soon.

Decker was also the mainstay in the pitcher’s circle during the week. She pitched 22 innings in four of the games and allowed just five runs, none of them earned. She walked four and struck out 22 batters, including 11 in one game against Valley View, of Ohio.

Clemons also singled out senior Alanna Mudd as having a good week. Though battling an injury, Mudd had five hits in 12 at-bats for a .417 average in four games. She scored five runs and drove in three.

Freshman Lauren Decker pitched 11 innings in three games, allowing five hits and four runs, only one of which was earned. She walked no one and struck out four. At the plate, Decker batted .333 with three doubles and the team’s only home run. She drove in six and scored once.

Senior Ashley Milliner was another Cougars with a fine week in the Florida sun. Milliner had seven hits in 17 at-bats, a .412 average. She drove in two and scored four times.

The Cougars played a pair of games on Sunday, both of them blowout wins. They defeated Washington County 14-3 in five innings. Shull was 4-for-4 in the game, scored four times and drove in one. Mudd had a pair of hits, drove in two and scored twice. Lauren Decker was the winning pitcher, allowing no earned runs on two hits and striking out four.

In the second game on Sunday, the Cougars shutout Valley View, from Ohio, 11-0. Kara Decker went all seven innings, allowing just four hits while striking out 11. She also had four hits in the game and drove in four runs. Lauren Decker hit a three-run home run in this game as well.

On Monday, the Cougars came from behind to defeat Lawrence County 3-2. After Lawrence scored two unearned runs off Kara Decker in the third inning, the Cougars got single runs in the third, fifth and seventh innings for the win. Shull drove in two runs, including the game winner in the seventh.

On Wednesday, the Cougars found themselves in a nip-and-tuck battle through six innings with North Hardin. Leading 2-1, the Cougars scored six times in the top of the seventh inning to break open the game. Lauren Decker pitched the final five innings to pick up the win, allowing just the single earned run on three hits.

Shull was 3-for-4 in this game, including a double and drove in four runs. England had a pair of hits and scored three times. Kara Decker drove in two with a single.

Finally, on Thursday, the Cougars beat North Bullitt, probably the best team they faced, 4-3. Grayson County scored all four runs in the first two innings, and then held off North the rest of the way. Kara Decker pitched the first six innings, allowing three unearned runs to earn the win.

Clemons was quick to point out this trip also provided some intangibles that should serve her team well the rest of the season.

“When I played, we all had known each other and played together growing up, but that is not necessarily the case with this team.”

Clemons said this was a great opportunity to get her team into a different environment and throw them together for a week.

“We made them all live together in a condo, and assigned them roommates… they didn’t have a choice,” she said.

The experience has joined a bunch of individuals into a cohesive unit.

“I think that is one of the absolute best things you can do for a team. I know, without a doubt, it will help them the rest of the season.”