COLFAX — Having sent Amy Russell to the circle each of the previous two nights, Colfax-Mingo softball coach Bryan Poulter wondered prior to Thursday’s game against Grandview Park Baptist if it was time to give his ace pitcher some well deserved rest.
The right-hander pitched every inning of her team’s games on Tuesday and Wednesday, including an eight-inning affair against North Polk.
Poulter’s concerns never seemed to come to fruition, though. Instead, Russell’s third straight complete game was her best yet.
The freshman held Grandview Park Baptist hitless through five innings and guided Colfax-Mingo to a 2-0 victory at home.
Tigerhawk junior Rylee Thompson helped break a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fifth with a double off the right field fence, scoring Alivia Haley from first base.
That little bit of run support proved more than enough for Russell, who finished the game with a one-hitter to show for her efforts.
“I don’t like to think that two [runs] is enough,” Poulter said, “but I felt really confident after we got those two.”
Poulter thought Russell’s control was as good as it’s been in the season’s first three games. The results proved him right. Russell struckout out nine, a season high, and walked none, a season low.
Russell explained after the game she felt confident heading to the rubber in the first inning following her warm-up session.
“Usually when I’m warming up, by the first pitch I throw, I can tell if it’s a good game or a bad game,” she said. “Most of my pitches when I was warming up, they were great.”
Colfax-Mingo (2-1) had several opportunities to give its often-used pitcher some breathing room. The Tigerhawks left the bases loaded in the third inning and then stranded a runner on third base to end the fourth.
Those scoreless outcomes quickly changed in the fifth when Haley led off with a walk. Thompson then came to the plate and hit a ball that appeared to have a chance of clearing the fence for a home run, but fell just short. After breaking her stride near third base, Haley darted home underneath a relay throw that sailed several feet over the catcher’s head for the game’s first run.
“I was just trying to get a hit, just trying to do whatever I could there,” Thompson said.
Russell, who was on-deck during Thompson’s at-bat, admitted she felt “relieved” when Haley scored. Her teammates gave her more cushion with a two-out RBI single to make it 2-0.
“It took some slack off me so I didn’t have all the pressure on me,” she said.
Grandview Park Baptist’s lone hit of night came in the next half inning when Reiley Rodman led off with a single. Russell calmly retired the next three batters, and ended the game by striking out three of the final six Defenders she faced.
Poulter stated he “didn’t know what to expect” from Russell in “her third game in a row of the first week.” He considered throwing one of his two eighth grade pitchers, but opted against that plan until they gain more confidence in junior varsity games.
That left the 15th-year head coach with his only other option, who did just fine.
“Her control was the best tonight that it’s been all week,” he said. “The spot that she wanted to throw it to, she threw it to and it went there.”