SHABBONA – It was a rough start to the Little Ten Conference softball season for Indian Creek on Monday afternoon. However, second-year coach Alyx Gunderson hopes her relativity young squad will use these experiences to improve game by game.
Perennial LTC power Newark wasted little time showing why it is a favorite to compete for the league’s championship by plating four runs in the top of the first inning and cruising to a 16-0, five-inning victory over the Timberwolves.
“We have only been on the field twice, so I don’t think the score today is a reflection of this team,” said Gunderson, whose club fell to 1-1 after winning its season opener, 25-0, a week ago. “We had a lot of our own small victories today despite the outcome. This was a totally different game speed than we experienced in our first game and, for the most part, what the pace is going to be. They’re just going to have to adjust to it.
“They have high expectations for themselves and it’s going to be fun to watch them reach those as the season goes on.”
The Norsemen, a regional champion and sectional finalist a season ago with most of their team returning, added three runs in each the second and third, before a six-run rally in the fourth ended the day’s scoring. The Timberwolves saw the visitors bang out 14 hits and didn’t help themselves by committing six errors.
“Three of my four infielders are freshmen and they are learning,” said Gunderson, who also praised the defense of center fielder Olivia Elliot. “They aren’t used to the quickness the ball comes off the bat yet. You can only simulate so much in the gym. We made some really good plays in the field. We have room for improvement, but we’ll get there.”
Indian Creek was held without a hit through three innings before beginning the fourth with back-to-back singles from senior catcher Kayla Kauffman and freshman shortstop Olivia Harvell.
However, that’s where the hosts’ rally ended as Newark starter Shelby Hoddy fanned the next three batters.
Senior right-handed pitcher Amanda Kimpflin took the loss, striking out two and walking two, but Gunderson said she was impressed with her hurlers’ poise despite the adversity she faced in every inning.
“[Kimpflin] pitches very well. While she’s not overpowering, she has a lot of movement on her pitches, which keeps a lot of hitters off-balance,” Gunderson said. “She gets frustrated with errors like any other pitcher does, but it will be her mentally getting out of her own head that will be a key to her being successful as the season goes on. She’s a senior, as is Kayla. They just have to realize that things will get better as the younger players gain experience.”