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Originally published: 2014-04-03 00:12:43
Last modified: 2014-04-03 15:47:51

Relaxed Pioneers beat Hickory in softball 9-1

by Steve Behr Sports Editor

Watauga softball coach Stephanie Kostis just wants her team to relax a bit.


Kostis still wants the Pioneers to play hard, but she wants them to not be so nervous when they are on the field, especially at the plate.


Watauga took that advice Wednesday and cruised to a 9-1 victory over visiting Hickory. The Pioneers belted out 17 hits overall, and pitcher Michala McCune held the Red Tornadoes to just four hits, while striking out eight.


But it was the production of the bottom of the order that Kostis liked on Wednesday. Watauga's final four batters in the order -- Hope LaPointe, Rachel Cox, Rachel Hawkins and Sarah Combs -- were particularly effective. The combination went 8-for-12 with five RBIs, including a sacrifice fly, and scored five runs.


"They're coming along, aren't they," Kostis said. "They're getting confidence and they're getting relaxed. That's the most relaxed I've seen the whole team. When they relax, great things happen."


Watauga scored five runs in the fifth inning, all of them being driven in by five different batters. The Pioneers sent nine batters to the plate in the fifth, and by the time they were finished, Watauga held a 7-0 lead.


Watauga's offense pounded out 17 hits, including three by McCune and three by LaPointe. Combs had two hits and two RBIs, including one in the fifth inning.


"Seventeen hits, that's incredible," Kostis said. "I think everybody in the lineup hit the ball and that's something to be proud of. We told the girls enjoy it, love it and keep this one with you. They expected to get the ground ball or the pop fly every single pitch on defense. They were aggressive on the base paths and I love to see that."


Hawkins' sacrifice fly in the second inning gave Watauga 1-0 lead. Combs drove in her first run in the fourth inning to give the Pioneers a 2-0 lead heading into the fifth.


That was when Watauga loaded the bases before Cox drove in a run with a single.

Hawkins drove in the next run with a single, and Combs followed with another two RBIs single to give the Pioneers a 6-0 lead.


Elizabeth Dollar followed with an RBI fielder's choice that capped the rally.


McCune took it from there. The Pioneers' pitcher, who walked just three, did not allow a run until the seventh inning.


"I wished we could have closed in on that shutout, but we'll take it," Kostis said.

Watauga hosts St. Stephens on Friday.


Watauga 9, Hickory 1

Hickory           000 000 1  -- 1   4 3

Watauga          010 152 X -- 9 17 2

Brisben and A. Donahue. McCune and Winebarger. W--McCune, L--Brisben. LOB--Hickory 6, Watauga 7. SF--Watauga, Hawkins. SB--Watauga, Winebarger.