How do you stop a softball team averaging 2.8 runs per inning?
Two words: Kiandra Mitchum.
Mitchum, Hanover’s veteran senior starter, allowed just three Atlee hits while striking out five as the Hawks left Raider Nation with a 1-0 victory Tuesday evening.
“Getting to face Atlee is always hype, always exciting, and I think that’s what helped actually,” Mitchum explained. “We’re all feeling good, coming together, ready to win.”
All excitement aside, Mitchum and her Hanover teammates knew what to expect in their annual trip to Atlee. The Raiders began their season with two five-inning blowouts over new Conference 11 foes Deep Run and Hermitage, scoring 13 and 15 runs respectively. But for as much as Atlee’s batters knew Mitchum’s tendencies, Kiandra knew theirs as well.
The Hawks earned the only run of the game in the first. Mitchum led off the game singling to center. Courtesy runner Erin Watkins was sacrificed to second on a Maura Long bunt, then advanced to third on a wild pitch. After Haley Gilbert popped out to Atlee starter Laura Kate Moss, Kaylyn Shepherd roped a single to left to score Watkins.
Atlee got lead-off runners in each of the first two innings. Both Shelby Hill (first) and Casey Barrett (second) stole second, but went no further as Mitchum retired the final two batters in each inning.
The Raiders’ best chance to score came in their last opportunity. Mattie Fitzgerald reached base after she grounded to second, but Shepherd, playing first, couldn’t catch the throw from Eryn King. Barrett, attempting to bunt her over to second, lined a bunt straight to Shepherd for the first out.
Annamarie Warley slammed a double to the right-center field wall. Fitzgerald was held up at third, a smart decision by Atlee head coach John Earley, as Mackenzie Wyatt got the ball back to the infield from the fence quickly.
Delani Ferrar was next to the plate, and for the second time in the game, she lit into the ball, but hit it directly at a Hanover defender. This time it was a scorching line drive to King at second, who snagged the ball for the second out.
It was up to relief pitcher Peyton St. George to tie or win the game, but Mitchum was able to induce her to pop up to Gilbert at shortstop, who drifted to her right briefly and caught the final out.
New Hanover head coach Stephanie Acors pinpointed the key to Mitchum’s success in the victory.
“She worked ahead in the count much of the night,” Acors said. “She only had five strikeouts, but her command of the pitches themselves and how she worked batters was key. We worked very hard to figure out where we pitch to whom.”
Hanover, considered by some to be the most complete returning team in the county, only losing one starter to graduation, moves to 3-0, and, after facing Henrico Wednesday after press time, take a road trip Monday to new Conference 20 opponent Dinwiddie before hosting Lee-Davis April 10.
Atlee, now 2-1, certainly has capable replacements for the now-departed Jessica Holte in the pitching circle and Taylor Sutherland at short. Freshman Casey Barrett, whose older sister Erica played for Hanover from 2009-2012, performed well at shortstop, and at bat, plus she stole two bases.
Moss, a sophomore, and St. George, a fellow freshman, once again split pitching duties for the Raiders, Moss going four innings and taking the loss, St. George pitching three shutout innings.
“I think they’re working into a groove, it’s going to come through more innings and more practices,” noted Atlee head coach John Earley, as to who will become the number one starter. “They’re so close, evenly matched, each have certain pitches that work well for them. It will boil down to who has the mental toughness.”
No matter who emerges as 2014 moves on, they’ll have a calming force in a certain senior catcher.
“Cameron Hall is the reason our two pitchers are doing so well,” Earley proclaimed. “She’s intelligent, understands the game, and she’ll work with them, talk to them, and calm them down.”
The Raiders next travel to Glen Allen Friday and Mills Godwin Monday before hosting Varina Tuesday.