HIGHLAND, Kansas — The Cloud County Community College softball team completed a grueling stretch of six games in three days Wednesday, falling by the final scores of 10-2 in each game of the doubleheader against No. 7 ranked Highland Community College.
For the T-Birds (9-25 overall, 2-14 Region VI), each game came down to one bad inning that got away from them that allowed the Scotties (24-10, 13-5 Region VI) to gain control.
"We played OK for the most part, except for two innings. One in the first game and one in Game Two," said Cloud County head coach, Aaron Acree. "Those were the big differences in the ballgames. Highland's speed got them going and then they were able to drive their runners in. They made us pay for some errors and walks. But the bright spot on the day was we started to swing the bats better."
In Game One, Cloud County was within striking distance of the Scotties, trailing 5-2, entering the sixth inning, courtesy of a mammoth 2-run home run by freshman Mattison Hogrefe that scored sophomore third baseman Payton Gillen.
It was the first of two home runs on the day for Hogrefe, who now has at least one hit in eight of her last nine games and four home runs on the season; all of which have come in the month of April.
"Mattison had a very good day at the plate," Acree said. "She's been doing her job as our 3-hole hitter, seeing the ball well and getting her hands through it. When she's able to get her hands through, the ball jumps off her bat. She's been very tough at the plate the last 2-3 weeks."
Highland answered with five runs in the home-half of the sixth inning, though, to recapture the momentum and take the series opener, 10-2.
The T-Birds started Game Two off strong as, following a leadoff single from freshman catcher Emily Wells, Hogrefe again launched a two-run home run to left, giving Cloud County a 2-0 advantage in the top of the first inning.
Cloud County held that lead until the bottom of the second inning when the Scotties struck for seven runs, sparked by their relentless attack on the base paths.
Highland had six stolen bases in Game Two, and 14 on the afternoon, to force the issue and set the stage for its big innings.
"We had some errors and allowed Highland to get some speed on the base. With how aggressive they were stealing bases it created some chaos," Acree said. "They (Scotties) have a ton of speed and they utilized it."
Cloud County had a few opportunities to get back in the game as the team produced seven hits in Game Two, in addition to a handful of loud outs, but were unable to drive in runners in scoring position over the final four innings.
"We faced similar velocity (Wednesday) to what we saw against Neosho on Tuesday, so it was only a matter of time before we got going a little bit again," Acree said. "We hit a lot of balls hard, but right at people. When we got runners on, we did a nice job moving runners over with sacrifice bunts. We just couldn't string the hits together."
Sophomore first baseman Alyssa Corpus and freshman shortstop Kennedy Doherty each finished 2-for-2 Wednesday's finale, while Wells, Hogrefe and freshman Mikayla Bletscher all record hits, as well, to lead the Cloud County offense.
Cloud County will have the rest of the week to rest up and regroup before it resumes Region VI action Monday on the road against Allen County Community College.
With four games remaining in the regular season, the quick breather is a welcomed one for the T-Birds as they aim to finish strong and head into the postseason with some momentum.
"It'll definitely be good to get some rest and our feet back underneath us," Acree said. "Hopefully we can come back refreshed and finish out the regular season the right way in these next couple of games."