From the bleachers, or from your car for that matter if you’ve taken advantage of the new softball radio broadcasts offered on The Mighty 580 KANA, Anaconda’s 2-0 win over Livingston didn’t seem that impressive. But here’s a few notes that may change your thoughts just a bit …
1) Anaconda only beat a team by two compared to the 17-3 thumping they put on the Lady Rangers last year in the State A tournament, but doing so against a dominant pitcher such as Hayley Dowdell in the first game of the season was pretty impressive. And starting off with a lefty for the first game of the season, I’d say the Copperheads handled themselves pretty admirably.
2) Brooke Chapman is primed for one helluva year. She shut out a pretty good Central A Conference lineup, one that should challenge to win the conference this season. She allowed only five base runners, two by walk and three singles, and her only real jam when Alexadra Schaeffer stood on third with two outs in the third, Chapman got Dowdell to pop up to Karli King at second base to end the inning. In the seventh, Chapman allowed a lead-off single to Schaeffer, but made quick work of Dowdell, 4-hitter Meadow Ingram and Hailey Versland to end the threat and game with the gem.
Chapman’s pitch count was a little higher than she would’ve liked in the first game of the season, but seeing that her command of most of her pitches was so good during a blustery day at Charlotte Yeoman Martin Sports Complex in her 2013 maiden voyage is a great sign for the Copperheads.
3) Chapman not only has refined her work within the circle, the girl can swing the lumber as well. All three hits she had during Tuesday’s win were pounded in to left and left center field, proving she is already on top of picking out the pitches she wants to hit. In her fourth at bat, Chapman worked a five-pitch walk in the sixth nursing a 1-0 lead with runners on second and third when most 3-hitters would’ve been pressing to get the RBIs. Being that she was the pitcher, her plate discipline in that situation is more impressive.
4) Anaconda only had one error, that was due to the field condition more than anything. Center fielder Lauren Bolton charged a sharply hit line drive in the third off Schaeffer’s bat only to see the ball skip off the brown and slick grass in the outfield. Speaking with her after the game, she recognized the error and was able to laugh it off and chalk it up to a learning experience. “I shouldn’t have charged it that way,” she said. In Bolton’s defense, the mistake was one almost every fielder would’ve made in that situation. Because the grass is still dormant from the winter, it tends to be slick when coupled with the surface of the ball and how hard it was hit. Normally, healthy grass grabs the ball, which usually comes off the bat to dead center with little or even heavy top spin on this particular line drive, and creates a “hop” and slowing effect. But because there is not moisture or density to the dormant grass, the slick surface of the ball skips instead of checking up.
Sorry for the lengthy explanation, but many don’t understand how hard it is to not only judge how hard the ball is hit when it gets to the outfield, not to mention trying to judge the type of spin the ball has coming off the bat. Bolton, who earned Southwestern A All Conference honors last year, is one of the best in conference – so if she’s making that error, so are 90 percent of the other outfielders.
5) As a team, Anaconda is on top of their game as far as plate discipline. From top to bottom, the Copperhead lineup showed excellent judgement in tough situations in terms of pitch count and understanding “hitters” counts. A lot of credit goes to Livingston hurler Hayley Dowdell getting ahead of the count early, mixing up speeds and locating on the corners to every batter. But even more goes to the Copperhead batters taking pitches in the early count in every at bat in order to, over time, produce a high pitch count uncharacteristic in such a low scoring game. In the seven hits for Anaconda, only three came with seeing less than four pitches. And in only one case, that being Brooke’s first inning single to left center, every hit was with the count in Dowdell’s favor.
6) Who I’m most impressed with: Chloe Worl, Lacey Moodry and Cassandra Flores. No offense to the others in the lineup, but all three of these girls didn’t see much varsity playing time last season. For them to step in and have a positive impact right away has to have head coach Dotsie Schafer beaming with excitement. A big credit goes to the assistant coaches, JV, AAU and offseason programs for developing these players. Worl, after fouling off three straight 0-2 pitches, laid off a close outside pitch on the fifth offering, then pounded a line drive single into left in the second. Her FC in the fourth also put Delanie Chapman into scoring position in the fourth to score the first run of the game, not to mention a hard hit drive to center in the sixth. Lacey is just a fiery competitor. She gives the bottom of the order an option for contact and speed, and her aggressiveness is bar-none the best on the team. Flores, a freshman, stepped in as a defensive shortstop and had two assists including an inning-ending 6-3 put out in the fourth after ranging to her right then delivering a perfect throw to Delanie Chapman at first two steps ahead of the runner.
Good plate discipline and pitch selection will lead to great offensive numbers for the Copperheads this season, one part of the game they seem to be in 100 percent control of already.
Some things the Copperheads need to work on, in my opinion. 1) Bunting: Only Karli King’s RBI fielder’s choice that scored Lacey Moodry for Anaconda’s insurance run in the sixth was the only bunt laid down properly for the Copperheads. Being that she’s No. 2 in the lineup, the place where the best contact hitter in softball is always located, in no secret. Although she went 0-4 on the afternoon is no indication on how good each one of her plate appearances was. She did pop out in the first, but her shots in the third and fourth innings couldn’t easily fallen in. In the third, her slicing shot to right danced in the wind, but Katie Krause judged a very tough play perfect. Then, in the fourth, Jacey Schleicher robbed King of a sure base hit with a diving attempt to end what would have been at least a one-run scoring single. 2) Running: Although it wasn’t apparent due to the lack of overall base runners, Lacee Moodry’s heads-up and aggressive double (Anaconda’s only extra base hit of the game) leading off the sixth was the only time a Copperhead hitter looked for second base. And going first to third is probably the toughest part of the game to teach in high school softball, but in order to challenge the likes of Polson, Frenchtown and Belgrade for hardware at the State tournament, the Copperheads are going to have to take more chances at moving from corner to corner in order to make up for their lack of overall team speed. You aren’t going to see many hit and run plays for Anaconda this season, but what you can count on to combat that part of the game is the overall power and ability to press the gaps by the AHS lineup.
It’s going to be a great year for the Copperheads. Stay tuned …
And as always, make sure to visit iscorebaseball.com/AHSCopperheads to keep up on every game the Copperheads play, home or away.
And here’s the link to the complete box score from Tuesday’s win … AHS box score