For a team that was supposed to rely on its hitting power to start the season, stellar pitching has been a welcome addition.
Days after getting recognized as the NJCAA Division I Pitcher of the Week, Three Rivers softball's Abbey Gann put together another solid performance in the front end of a doubleheader against State Fair (6-8, 0-2 Region XVI). She struck out 10 of her 19 faced batters and allowed two hits in a five-inning shutout to help the Raiders earn a 10-0 victory. Gann's record now sits at 5-1 on the year.
(Gann) had a pretty solid day. Didn't give them too much," Three Rivers coach Jeff Null said.
Saje Kurpiela followed that performance up with an equally impressive display on the back end of the doubleheader. She threw a one-hitter, striking out 12 of the 18 batters she faced in five innings to help lift Three Rivers to an 8-0 win. Kurpiela is also off to a good start this season with a 7-1 record.
"Man, (Kurpiela) threw probably her best outing of the year," Null said. "She followed it up with a very strong outing. For her, it was probably her best stuff she's thrown."
Null credits the improvements he's seen in his pitching staff to the extra time he and the coaching staff had to work with them last week since a day's worth of games were canceled, freeing up extra practice time before opening region play.
"They both have improved big time," Null said. "Coming into the year, this was planned to be number three and number four (in the pitching order). Things happen, and now they're one and two. I think last week, we had a little time off early in the week and we got to work on some things. It really paid off last Friday, Sunday and Monday.
"They've all been throwing a lot better. We've just talked about the mental side of it and working hitters. We're always setting up the next pitch, and I think that's something they never really understood. … We get a lot of talking about the mental part of it, and I think it's shown."
With the doubleheader sweep, the Raiders improve to 13-2 overall and 3-1 in region play.
"I was a little concerned coming in," Null said. "They had pitchers that had shut out a couple of teams coming in, but our pitchers threw well and we kind of got the bats going a little bit."
In the first game, the hitting was solid one the bats got going. Kristyn Carpenter hit a solo home run to break a scoreless game in the bottom of the third. After that, Three Rivers took over, scoring nine runs total in the fourth and fifth innings.
Both of Carpenter's hits were home runs. Allison Pingel continued to add to her record-holding home run tally. She ripped a three-run homer in the game to help Three Rivers to a commanding win. Both Pingel and Carpenter led Three Rivers with three RBIs.
Jenny Morey drove in two runs and scored one of her own from her leadoff spot in a 1-of-3 day at the plate.
In the second game, Three Rivers' bats slowed a little with nine hits compared to 13 in the first game, but it didn't matter considering how well the pitching was executing. The game again started out with a defensive struggle. Both sides went scoreless for the first three innings. Three Rivers then got going with three runs in the fourth inning before following it up with five in the fifth to end the game.
Overall, the mistakes are dropping and the improvements are increasing. Three Rivers didn't commit any errors in either of its two wins, and Null said the lack of mistakes lately have made the team noticeably better.
Next up, Three Rivers will visit Metropolitan Community College for doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday's games will start at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday's games are scheduled for noon and 2 p.m.
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic