BAXTER — It took a little bit of time for Baxter’s softball team to adjust to the pitching speed of Tripoli freshman Lauren Funk on Monday.
The Bolts went from seeing all-state pitcher Mikayla Houge at the end of last week to Funk on Monday, and the bats were shut down for five innings.
A switch to using heavier bats helped the Bolts get out of their funk, and a four-run sixth inning propelled Baxter to 4-2 win at home.
“It helped them wait on the ball longer. I think it helped mentally, too,” Baxter head coach Crystal Bruntz said of the adjustment. “Once we got going, we kept going.”
The Bolts had eight hits in the game and five came in the deciding sixth inning. McKenzie Eslinger reached on a lead-off infield single and then Mandee Selover smacked a single through the left side of the infield.
Baxter (6-5) got on the board when Lilie Vansice collected an RBI single nearly through the place of the infield. Then with one out, Brenna Thomson tied the game with an RBI single that came on an 0-2 pitch.
Maddie Pierce, who had two hits in the game, put the Bolts in front with a two-run single. Pierce’s game-winning hit also came with two strikes.
Pierce was retired on the first pitch of her second and third at-bats, and she admitted to being frustrated. She swung through the first two pitches on her final at-bat, but made the proper adjustment to give the Bolts a 4-2 lead.
“I was frustrated at first, but the shift to a heavier bat helped,” Pierce said. “It’s an important win. We haven’t played very well the past few games so being able to come back and win today can hopefully give us some momentum.”
The Bolts weren’t completely silent in the first five innings. They stranded the bases loaded in the first and third innings.
They filled the bags with only one out in the first but couldn’t score.
After two straight outs, the Bolts loaded the bases in the third but a ground out ended the threat.
“We expected to get on her with our bats earlier but didn’t,” Sydney Schmidt said. “It got to the sixth inning, and I think the mentality shifted to where we only have one or two innings left, we should probably get going.
“We went to heavier bats to slow our bat speed down. That helped a little bit.”
Schmidt earned the win in the circle and improved to 6-5 on the season. She allowed single runs in the third and sixth innings. All four hits she surrendered were infield singles and she struck out seven.
Olivia Miller had three of the four infield hits, stole second three times and scored both Panther runs.
The first run in the third inning came on another infield single. The Bolts committed a pair of errors in the sixth and Miller scored on a sacrifice fly to center field.
“The errors are hurting us. We have to play better in the field,” Bruntz said. “We are working on it. The kids are playing new positions, and it will take some time.”
Pierce and Holly Jessen both had two hits apiece to lead Baxter’s offense.
Schmidt walked once and was hit by a pitch, Eslinger walked, singled and scored a run and Vansice and Thomson each had one hit, one run and one RBI.
Baxter plays Riceville at 4 p.m. on Wednesday in Riceville.