CONCORDIA, Kansas — Following a nine-day stretch where they won seven of 10 games, the Cloud County Community College softball team has hit a mid-season funk, with the latest snag coming Tuesday in a home doubleheader against Neosho County Community College.
Cloud County (9-23 overall, 2-12 Region VI) fell by the final scores of 6-1 and 12-3 on Tuesday against a powerful visiting Panthers team (13-17 overall, 8-6 Region VI).
The T-Birds were coming off a split on Monday against Bethany College JV where they faced some young, low velocity arms. Neosho County sophomore Kaelee Escoe, who picked up wins in the pitching circle in each game for the Panthers, presented a major contrast in styles.
"We faced a ton of velocity today (from Escoe) after seeing a lot of off-speed on Monday. We never could quite catch up to her," said Cloud County head coach, Aaron Acree. "The velocity was a factor. Then Neosho County showed more off-speed stuff to start Game Two and we have to be able to adjust to that."
The Cloud County offense has hit a minor slump, scoring three or less runs in five straight games. It comes on the heels of a following 10-game stretch where Cloud County offense smashed 10 home runs and produced double-digit hits in five games.
"We haven't been as patient as we were at the plate during that two-week span," Acree said. "We have to get back to that. We have to get back to swinging at strikes and leaving balls alone, being selective and waiting for a pitch up that we can handle."
In Game One, the Panthers took early control of the game with four runs in the top of the first inning on a pair of run-scoring doubles and a RBI groundout.
The score sat at 5-0 when the T-Birds got a run back in the sixth inning via a RBI single smashed back up the middle by freshman shortstop Kennedy Doherty that scored fellow freshman Mikayla Bletscher.
Doherty would finish 2-for-3 in Game One, while Bletscher and freshman Mattison Hogrefe each added doubles to pace the Cloud County offense.
Following the tough first inning, freshman pitcher Jacie Marcotte was solid over the final four frames, limiting the Panthers to just one run on eight scattered hits.
Sophomore left-hander Alyssa Corpus pitched two strong innings of relief as she didn't allow a hit or an earned run to the eight batters she faced.
The early offense trend continued for the Panthers in Game Two as they scored one in the first, five in the second and four runs in the third to go up 10-0.
Cloud County cut the deficit to 10-3, one coming in the third when sophomore Kelsey Bowers sprinted home from third base on a wild pitch, and two more runs in the fourth inning.
Freshman outfielder Kara Chisolm lofted a RBI single out to left-center that scooted by the Neosho County center fielder, scoring freshman Sarah Mccown from second and Bletscher from first on the error.
That chased Neosho County's Game Two starter Ryleigh Chaffin, but the rally unfortunately ended there as Escoe was able to nail down the final two innings for the Panthers.
Mccown, Cloud County's leading hitter on the season with a .355 average, snapped out of a mini 1-for-12 skid with a 3-for-3 performance in Game Two to lead the offense.
"That was a good sign," Acree said of Mccown's three hits. "When she's able to keep it simple like she did in Game Two, a short swing to the ball, she'll have success like that."
Up next for Cloud County to complete its stretch of six games in three days will be a Wednesday road doubleheader against Highland Community College.
Game times are set for 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. out in Highland.
"Highland's infield is very, very good. They are a solid team all the way around, so we're going to have to compete," Acree said. "We have adjustments, offensively, we need to get back to. We'll see if we can get it going again and at least go earn a split (Wednesday)."