Timely hitting complements solid pitching in softball's season-opening wins

Dabney Skutt

CLERMONT, Fla. – Behind masterful pitching and explosive innings offensively, the Hanover softball team finished 2-0 on Sunday's Opening Day, defeating Alverno (Wis.) and Concordia-Moorhead 6-2 and 7-0, respectively.

The Panthers are unbeaten after the opening day of the season for the second straight year and the win over Alverno marked the program's fourth consecutive win in the first game of the season. Over the past four years, HC is now 16-8 during its annual Florida trip.

Senior Dabney Skutt (Indianapolis, Ind.) was an integral piece in the offensive firepower, finishing the day with a .571 batting average (4-7), six RBI, three extra-base hits and two runs. The senior logged multiple hits in both games and added an inside-the-park home run in the opener.

In the pitching circle, freshman Lily Beurman (Evansville, Ind.) and junior Sydney Griffin (Cambridge City, Ind.) each threw complete games en route to a pair of victories. In her collegiate debut, Beurman struck out seven, while giving up two earned runs on three hits. Griffin threw her ninth career shutout Sunday, and her second in Florida over the past two seasons. Last year, Griffin tossed a no-hitter in a victory over Johnson & Wales (R.I.). Sunday may not have been a no-hitter, but the junior did strike out nine, while conceding just two hits.

The season-opening win over Alverno saw a pair of Panthers tally multiple hits in Skutt and sophomore Taylor Merrill (Brownsburg, Ind.). The duo of Skutt and Merrill combined to drive in all six HC runs as well.

After allowing a run in the top of the first, Hanover scored its first run of the 2018 campaign with Skutt's inside-the-park home run. Neither side could scratch anything over the next three innings, leaving the game at a 1-1 stalemate heading to the fifth.

A leadoff single for Alverno (0-3) in the fifth engineered one run, giving the Inferno a 2-1 advantage. The Panthers responded with three runs on three hits in the bottom half of the frame to capture its first lead of the game at 4-2. Merrill was hit by a pitch and singles from freshman Mackenzie Smith (Jeffersonville, Ind.) and junior Carlie Roark (Hebron, Ky.) loaded the bases with one out. Skutt then followed with a bases-clearing double up the middle.

Hanover opened the sixth with three consecutive hits, as Merrill capped the stretch with a two-RBI triple. Beurman retired eight of the final nine Alverno batters she faced to secure the win.

The Panthers followed up their season-opener with two more multi-run innings against Concordia-Moorhead. Skutt opened the scoring again, driving in Smith, who led off with a walk, on a double to left field. The first four HC batters reached base safely and freshman Ashley Swearingen (Clarksville, Ind.) and Merrill drove in two other first inning runs on a sac fly and hit by pitch, respectively.

Griffin retired the first six batters she faced and worked out of a jam in the bottom of the third inning to keep the Cobbers (1-1) scoreless. Riding the momentum of Griffin's performance, HC tacked on three additional runs in the fourth inning for a 6-0 advantage. Roark, Smith and sophomore Bug Donnell (North Vernon, Ind.) all scored in the frame.

Freshman Hannah Wilson (Louisville, Ky.) drove in the final run of the game in the seventh, as her ground out to short drove in classmate Rachel Cox (Indianapolis, Ind.), who entered the game as pinch runner earlier in the inning.

Hanover will now turn its attention to the Milwaukee School of Engineering (Wis.) and Neumann (Pa.) Monday, Feb. 26. The Panthers are set for 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. start times, respectively.

Contact: Tyler Jester