T-Birds split KJCCC East opener against No. 16 ranked Hutchinson

Freshman third baseman Payton Gillen finished 1-for-3 in Game Two's 6-2 victory over No. 16 Hutchinson
Freshman third baseman Payton Gillen finished 1-for-3 in Game Two's 6-2 victory over No. 16 Hutchinson

CONCORDIA, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College softball team had a solid start to its KJCCC East portion of its schedule, earning a split Thursday against No. 16 ranked Hutchinson Community College.

Cloud County (5-7 overall, 1-1 KJCCC) dropped Game One by the final score of 9-1 in five innings. But the T-Birds bounced back to snag Game Two, 6-2, behind another strong pitching performance by sophomore Jordan Ummel and a big day at the plate by her battery mate, sophomore catcher Kayla West.

"It was one bad inning that got us in Game One. First game wasn't good, but we responded," said Cloud County head coach, Aaron Acree. "We got another great performance from Jordan, our defense was great and aggressive to the ball, and we did a much better job offensively of putting the ball in play. When we do those things, we can be something."

Ummel, the reigning KJCCC DII Pitcher of the Week, went all seven innings of Game Two and limited the powerful Blue Dragons (9-3 overall, 1-1 KJCCC) to two runs, one earned on six hits.

A home run by Hutchinson's Kiara DeCrane in the sixth inning was the first earned run against Ummel since Feb. 18, ending Ummel's impressive streak of 24.1 innings without allowing an earned run.

The long ball was no harm done, though, as the T-Birds had already staked Ummel to a 6-1 lead to work with after scratching out runs in the second and third innings, then exploding for four runs in the bottom of the fourth.

West delivered the big blow, crushing her first career home run to left-center field. The 3-run bomb scored freshman Payton Gillen and sophomore Autumn Adams while ballooning Cloud County's lead to 6-1.

"Kayla has improved greatly from one year ago to now and is hitting the ball extremely hard," Acree said. "She has a hot stick right now. I'm happy as a lark for her because she has been doing extremely well for us, offensively, and behind the plate controlling the pitchers."

West finished 3-for-3 with 3 RBI and two runs scored to highlight what was a major step forward, offensively, for the T-Birds.

Cloud County finished with nine hits against Hutchinson starting pitcher, Destiny Shulze, after being limited to one run on five hits in Game One by D.J. Cannon.

Freshman first baseman Alyssa Corpus, who was 2-for-3 in Game One, and sophomore Nicole Dinkel each recorded RBI hits, while a total of seven different T-Birds finished with at least one base knock in Game Two.

"We were swinging and strikes and making contact out in front instead of when the ball is behind us," said Acree of the offensive turnaround. "Hutchinson's pitcher (Shulze) is the real deal and threw just as hard as (Game One starter DJ Cannon). We settled down and slowed the game down. Sometimes we're too antsy when we come up to bat."

The T-Birds, armed with confidence from knocking off a nationally ranked foe, will now look to build off of Thursday's split when they resume KJCCC East action next Friday and Saturday with four straight home games against Johnson County and Fort Scott, respectively.

"I think we can be pretty good when we want to be good," Acree said. "They have the potential. They just have to be bound and determined to compete. We can compete with anybody if we are doing what we're supposed to do."