Apex gives Lady Jackets rough start
Lee County lost its opening game of its softball season Thursday night, falling to Tri-Nine mate Apex 9-0.
Lee County head coach Miles McCaskill, with a young squad after his Yellow Jackets made the state tournament a season ago but lost eight seniors and a majority of the usual lineup, still saw some positives and reasons to remain excited for what this new group is capable of.
“It’s like I told them before tonight, it’ll be a joy watching them grow,” McCaskill said.
Even in a 9-0 loss, and even facing Apex pitcher Lindsay Hodge who tossed a three-hitter, there were spots for the Lady Jackets to build on.
The Jackets, with freshman pitcher Savannah Patterson in the circle, held Apex, or at least kept potential rallies in check, to the tune of a 3-0 Apex lead through five frames.
“Savannah did a great job for us tonight,” McCaskill said. “We made a couple of mistakes behind her and that’s part of the learning process. You can’t give a team like Apex four or five outs in an inning and not get hurt.”
After leaving two runners on in the top of the first, Apex took the lead in the second when Cassie Healy was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and two out.
Meanwhile, Lee County managed one runner each of the first four frames. Leadoff hitter Megan Santell singled to right with the first Jacket at-bat of the season but got no further than second base.
Allie Eyers singled with one out in the second. The Jackets couldn’t put anything else together against Hodge though and didn’t put another runner in scoring position until the sixth. Hodge finished with six strikeouts and three walks.
Patterson pitched five innings plus two batters into the sixth, allowing five runs but only two earned. She struck out six.
Four of the seven Lady Jacket errors on the night came in Apex’s six-run sixth. Jordan Smith and Nicole Pisacane scored two runs each for the Lady Cougars.
“We took a big step tonight,” McCaskill said. “The girls proved they can compete for five innings.”
Hanging in a game and topping Tri-Nine competition are two different levels though and McCaskill doesn’t hide what it’ll take from his team.
“We’re talking about executing on every pitch, whether it’s offense, defense or on the bases, because that’s what it takes playing in the most competitive league in the state,” he said.
The few returning veterans from last year’s squad are helping lead the younger Yellow Jackets, he said, crediting shortstop Chandler Patterson, catcher Nikki Hoover, second baseman Allie Eyers and first baseman Mary Beard.
“They know what it takes and they’re already passing it on to the younger girls,” he said.
The Tri-Nine schedule doesn’t wait up for the Jackets, however. Lee County’s first four games are league tests and the Lady Jackets (0-1) travel to play Fuquay-Varina tonight at 6:30 p.m.