Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
By Robb Hemmelgarn
Wildcats beat Celina in season opener
  MINSTER - With nine starters returning this spring to the lineup card for the Minster Wildcats, head softball coach Scott Robinson holds lofty expectations as the season got underway Tuesday at Four Seasons Park in Minster.
In town were Nicole Driggs' Celina Bulldogs, a team littered with underclassmen up and down the roster, and coming off of a season-opening loss the evening before.
Powered by timely hitting and solid defense, the Wildcats jumped out to a 6-0 command before taking their season-opener with a 6-3 victory over the Bulldogs.
"Celina is a good ball club and they are very well-coached," Robinson remarked following the victory. "We talked about defending our home field before the game tonight. We don't want to lose here and tonight was the first of a lot of tough games we will play here this season."
Minster wasted little time lighting up the scoreboard in their favor when Rachel Heckaman reached base on an error and soon scored following another Bulldog defensive lapse that allowed Marissa Conrad to safely reach first. Conrad scored a few minutes later on a base hit by Sara Hosey, giving the Orange and Black a 2-0 advantage after the first inning.
Celina starter Melody Donovan walked Kayla Richard to start the bottom of the second and when Heckaman followed up with an RBI double, Donovan's evening was over after 1 1/3 innings. Alexis Zacharias took the mound only to have Alexis Robinson greet her with a one-out single which plated Heckmann. Robinson soon made her way around the base paths following an RBI single by Regan Hahn.
"Melody pitched seven innings for us last night against St. Henry, but we wanted to put her out here tonight and see what she had," commented Driggs. "She faced a strong team tonight and it was rough at the start, so we went with Zacharias after that. I was proud of how Alexis buckled down in the last couple of innings and seemed to have found her spot."
The Wildcats added another run in their half of the fourth frame when Conrad boomed a double and soon scored on a sacrifice fly by Robinson. With her offense awarding her a six run cushion, Richard was remarkable on the mound through the first five innings, allowing just one hit and notching five strikeouts.
"Celina has some great hitters, but I felt Kayla did a great job of keeping them in check tonight," Robinson advised. "Defensively we played very solid and we hit the ball well, which is typically a part of the game that takes a little bit to catch on, so I am very happy with where we are right now."
The Bulldogs began to spark in the top of the sixth though, when Melody Donovan led the frame off with a single and scored when a two-out single by Katie Kuhn was booted in the outfield after dropping in safely for a base hit. Zacharias followed Kuhn with an RBI single of her own to cut her teams' deficit to 6-2. The Bulldogs final score unfolded in the seventh inning when Haley McGillvary reached base on an error before being knocked home with a single from Melody Donovan. "I saw some fight develop in the girls in the sixth and seventh innings and I was very pleased with that," Driggs explained. "We are an extremely young team with eight girls who are freshmen and sophomores, but I saw a lot of growth today. None of us like to lose, but it is good to see us heading in the right direction."
Richard went the distance in Minster's first game of the season and allowed just five hits while striking out seven in the contest. Offensively, Heckaman and Conrad each enjoyed two-hit nights including a double and RBI apiece. Melody Donovan and Kuhn each collected a pair of base hits and a run batted in for the Bulldogs, who slipped to 0-2 on the season.
Both squads are scheduled to be back in action Thursday when Minster travels to Lincolnview and Celina hosts Parkway.
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