HUTCHINSON, Kansas — Playing on a softball diamond for the first time this spring, and playing against a longstanding Region VI rival in Hutchinson Community College, the Cloud County Community College softball team produced a lot of positives in its doubleheader loss (6-4 and 6-1) to the Blue Dragons.
"All in all, (Wednesday) wasn't that bad considering it was our first time on a field," said Cloud County head coach Aaron Acree. "The bottom-half of our lineup did well with the bats. If we get the top-half going that will be a strong asset."
The two teams kicked off action with a thrilling Game One that saw Hutchinson (2-1 overall), which made the switch from NJCAA Division II to Division I this offseason, hold on for a 6-4 final.
Cloud County (0-2 overall) battled back from a 4-0 deficit through the game's first two innings to tie the score at 4-4 in the top of the sixth on a RBI single through the left-side by sophomore Madison Hammond.
Hammond, also the T-Birds' starting pitcher in Game One, finished 1-for-3 at the plate and pitched six effective innings, allowing four runs on six hits with a pair of strikeouts.
Hutchinson started the game off with a triple and two-run home run, but the Cloud County right-hander was able to weather the storm and keep her team in a position to steal Game One.
Cloud's comeback started with a two-run fourth inning before adding a third run in the fifth, with RBI singles from sophomores Payton Gillen and Alyssa Corpus, before Hammond's clutch single in the sixth.
Hutchinson countered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth to retake a 6-4 lead, but had to sweat out one final comeback attempt from the T-Birds in the top of the seventh.
Freshman infielder Kennedy Doherty, who finished 1-for-2 in her collegiate debut, was hit by a pitch to load the bases for Cloud County with two outs, but the rallied stalled there as Hutchinson held on for the 6-4 final.
As for Game Two, it was Cloud County that drew first blood, taking a 1-0 advantage in the top of the third on a RBI double from Hammond.
Unfortunately for the T-Birds, the Blue Dragons were quick to answer with four runs in the home-half of the third and two more runs in the fourth to break the game open.
Doherty and fellow freshman Sarah McCown each joined Hammond in the hit column with singles, while freshman Mattison Hogrefe pitched two scoreless innings of relief, including her first collegiate strikeout.
Cloud County will now turn its attention toward its annual trip out to Fort Worth, Texas for a loaded Cowtown Classic.
The T-Birds will play five games over the weekend, starting with a 9 a.m. showdown on Friday against Seminole State College (OK.), ranked No. 10 in the NJCAA Division I preseason poll.
"We will be playing teams that already have 10-12 games under their belts," Acree said. "But I feel the girls are up for the challenge and we need to play to work our kinks out."