INDEPENDENCE, Kan. - With a new era beginning, the Independence Lady Pirates began the 2019 campaign at home hosting the Neosho County Panthers. The opening day was highly competitive, but it wasn't enough in either affair as the Lady Pirates dropped both games 3-2 and 8-7 in eight innings.
"We know that we were really close today and we have to just keep improving," coach Sam Allen said. "We saw some things today our first day out on the dirt in quite some time and defensively wasn't that bad for the first gameday. We just need to clean some stuff, learn from today and prepare for the next opponent."
In the first inning of game one, a single and sacrifice had a runner at second base for Neosho and a walk put a runner on first before an error in centerfield scored a run. Independence got out of the inning with a ground ball to third. In the bottom half of the inning, the Lady Pirates got a single from Kiersten Brown, but three straight flyouts retired the side with Neosho leading 1-0.
In the second inning, a walk and a single got the Panthers going and an error at first loaded the bases a fielder's choice at second scored a run. A sac fly to the outfield scored another run, but a flyout to Cassi Smith in right got Independence out of the jam.
The Lady Pirates began the second inning with a bloop single from Cameron Ortiz and an error by the shortstop put Kiana Turner on before a sac bunt scored Ortiz for the first run of the season. Another error put Alli Price on giving the Lady Pirates runners at the corners and Smith beat out a bunt to load the bases. A sac bunt scored Turner from third an out at firat ended the inning with Independence making the score 3-2.
The third inning began with a walk from pitcher Gabby Horton to put a runner on before the entrance of Elizabeth Mensink. Another walk gave the Panthers runners at first and second before a flyout to Smith and a two force outs at first to Turner got put the Panthers away in the third.
A single up the middle for Cheyenne Bryant with one out gave Independence a runner at first. Bryant would be run for by Skylar See before a walk to Ortiz and Turner to load the bases, but back to back strikeouts ended the inning with the Lady Pirates still trailing 3-2.
In the fourth inning, a walk put a runner at first, but three straight outs retired the side. The Lady Pirates came to the plate and with two outs got a single from Brianna Hollis, but a strikeout left her stranded to end the inning.
The top of the fifth inning was a 1-2-3 affair with the Panthers going down in order as Independence looked to gain momentum in the home half. A walk and a pass ball got Ortiz to second with one out before Merriah Richardson reached base with two outs after a pop fly, but an out at first ended the inning.
In the sixth inning, Neosho got three runners on, but three outs that included a runner being thrown out at third kept the Lady Pirates within one heading to the home half. Independence had no answer in the bottom of the inning and the score remained 3-2 Neosho.
In the seventh inning, the Panthers went down in order capped by a strikeout by Mensink with one more opportunity for the Lady Pirates remaining. A single up the middle for Kayla Broncho put a runner on for the Lady Pirates, but a fielder's choice off a hit from Bryant threw her out at second before a single up the middle for Ortiz. The next two batters were retired on flyouts and Independence would drop game one.
In game two, the first inning began with Independence batting first and a leadoff single by Smith before a hit for Hollis that went off the glove of the first baseman putting runners at the corners. A single for Broncho scored Smith to give the Lady Pirates a 1-0 lead.
A single for Ortiz with one out loaded the bases as Hollis slid under the tag at third and a grand slam for Turner pushed the lead to 5-0. Doubles by Richardson and Price kept the momentum going scoring a run pushing the Independence lead to 6-0 throughout the top half.
A double for Sierra Spurlock got Neosho going and she would advance to third on a fielder's choice at first base before a walk to Kinsley Stewart. A two-run double for Madison Phillips scored Spurlock and Stewart with two outs and a popup to Ortiz ended the inning with the Lady Pirates leading 6-2.
The second inning saw a quick half inning for the Lady Pirates, but for Neosho the inning began with a leadoff single for Kodie Casey before a pass ball took her to second with one out, but that would be all after a strikeout by pitcher Jennifer Dunagan and flyout to Smith in left ended the frame.
In the third inning, a one out walk to Turner and single for Richardson gave Independence two base runners. A stolen base by Turner put runners at the corners for the Lady Pirates, but the two runners were stranded to end the top half of the inning. A single put Alyssa Rogers aboard and a hit for Stewart gave Neosho two runners before a 4-6-3 double play and a force out at first ended the inning with Independence holding strong with a four-run lead.
A single by Smith opened the top of the fourth for the Lady Pirates and a steal got her to second before a single from Hollis brought her in to score. A pass ball and a sac bunt got Hollis to third and a walk from Kat MacManus put Bryant on first. Bryant would steal second with two outs, but a strikeout ended the top of the inning with Independence leading 7-2. A solo homer by Kaelee Escoe led off the bottom of the fourth before two more strikeouts by Dunagan and a flyout to Smith ended the inning with the score 7-3 in favor of the Lady Pirates.
The fifth inning began with Richardson being hit by a pitch and a walk to Price gave Independence two base runners before three straight strikeouts for Escoe. Neosho went down in order to end the inning with a four-run lead for Independence.
A one-out error at third base put Bryant on first, but that was all in the top of the inning as a double play ended the at bat for the Lady Pirates. A single by Ryleigh Chaffin who was run for by Meagan Hizey began the at bat for the Panthers. Hizey would steal second before a fielder's choice got her to third and a double for Escoe brought her in to score.
A double by Libby Horton advanced Escoe to third and Independence made a pitching change to bringing in Mensink. A pass ball scored Hizey and an error at first on a hit by Ashlyn Stipp brought in Escoe making the score 7-6. A base hit by Shayla Schaper put runners at first and second before a fielder's choice threw out Stipp at third and a force out at first ended the inning with Independence clinging to a one-run lead.
The seventh inning saw a one-out single for Richardson before she got called out for leaving early and singles for Price and See put runners at the corners, but a strikeout ended the top frame going to the bottom of the seventh. Neosho led off with Stewart reaching base with a walk before a pass ball got her to second before a put out at first put her 60 feet away from the plate. A sac fly to See in right tied the game, but the game headed to extra innings after a put out at first.
A hit for Hollis gave the Lady Pirates runner at the corners with Smith at third, but a double play and force out at first ended the top frame. A pass ball scored a run in the bottom of the 8th and Independence dropped the game after a hard-fought battle.
Independence (0-2) returns home Friday February 22 facing the State Fair Roadrunners with first pitch at 2 pm.