By Jeremy Jacob, Sports Editor
The more confident Kennedy Ashenfelter got Wednesday at Van-Far, the better she and Paris got.
The sophomore pitcher struck out 13 Lady Indians in Paris’ 8-3 victory, retiring 21 of the final 24 batters she faced and stringing together 11 consecutive outs at one point. She also finished 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI.
Knightlee Mitten also went 3-for-5 for Paris, and Hope Sutherland, Sophia Crusha and Rachel Shoemyer each had RBI. For Van-Far, Madelynn Caldwell went 1-for-2 with two runs, and RBI triple and a walk, and Hailey Lowry had an RBI.
The victory for Paris snapped a three-game losing streak, so head coach Collin Huffman said the Lady Coyotes needed a win after losing a close 3-2 game Sept. 1 at Cairo and an 18-5 rout Tuesday at North Shelby. Huffman said the North Shelby loss was because Paris played a poor half of the game against a senior-heavy team, and the Cairo loss happened despite another good Ashenfelter performance. This time against Van-Far, he said her teammates supported her early.
“The defense went out and actually backed up Kennedy tonight,” Huffman said. “(On Tuesday), I think it was just a long weekend, and we weren’t quite focused going out there. I think the girls just had a little bit of extra confidence in them.”
Huffman said he thinks he has a winning team this year and Wednesday reinforced that as the Lady Coyotes scored four runs in the first inning, which was started by an RBI single by Ahsenfelter. Crusha bunted home another runner, and Hope Sutherland doubled in two runs.
Huffman said his team was aware of what Van-Far’s pitching staff had with Mara Jensen getting the start one night after pitching six innings in a 12-0 shutout against Madison. He said Paris looked for its pitches to drive and were aggressive on the basepaths to take advantage of its speed.
That speed emerged also in the circle from Ashenfelter as she struck out two Lady Indians in the second inning and just amped it up from there. Huffman said she has had to amp it up since last season after graduating four-year varsity pitcher and reigning all-Lewis and Clark conference player Gracie Hatton, who went out with an injury during the season.
“Kennedy had to come in and learn how to be that lady last year, and I know it helped her a bunch,” Huffman said. “She did a great job and part of that is she builds off her defense. Those girls go out there and make those key plays they need to, she throws harder and harder. That velocity picked up at the end because that’s just how she is.”
Van-Far responded to Paris’ early offense with two runs in the first inning when Caldwell hit an RBI double and Jensen added another via groundout. Paris restored its four-run lead in the second inning, and Van-Far cobbled together only two more hits the rest of the game.
Head coach Kelly Borchert said Van-Far still needs to gain that “grit” teams need to win games. This translates into several aspects of the game the Lady Indians have struggled with.
“Right now, as a team, we are lacking grit — the willingness to do whatever it takes to win,” Borchert said. “That is something you just can’t coach. It’s getting dirty, diving in the outfield, doing whatever it takes to get on base — whether it’s drawing a walk, going deep in the count, getting hit with the ball — talking constantly. It’s just the little things that make you an all-around better player besides being fundamentally sound.”
Borchert said Van-Far needed to see a “faster” pitcher such as Ashenfelter to prepare for the rest of its schedule as the team hit slower speed in its victory against Madison.
When it came to Van-Far’s pitching, Borchert said Jensen just didn’t have the movement she had Tuesday when she struck out seven, which can be explained by a three-game week. Jensen was gone after two innings in favor of Dalana Gay, who clearly seemed fresher when she struck out six batters and allowed five hits and two runs in five innings.
“Dalana didn’t pitch last night, so she came out with a little more fire tonight,” Borchert said.
Gay grunted on about every pitch, showing the intensity and the grit that Borchert is looking from all of her players, she said.
Huffman said Ashenfelter feels at home in the circle, especially with her younger sister, Emma Ashenfelter, at catcher. He thinks the older Ashenfelter can measure up to the legacy left behind by Hatton, who will play for Moberly Area Community College after setting the school record for single-season and career strikeouts.
“Kennedy is gunning after all those records that Gracie broke,” Huffman said. “It’s no problem. She’ll break them.”
Lady Coyotes shut out 5-0 at Knox County, drop two more games
Paris’ struggles against Knox County continued Thursday.
The Lady Coyotes were shut out 5-0 by the Lewis and Clark Conference foe on the road, being held scoreless for the first time this season but limiting the Lady Eagles’ offense this time around. Paris went into Thursday having lost three of the previous meetings with Knox County by double digits.
Reese Sutton and Sophia Crusha each had a hit, and Kennedy Ashenfelter pitched seven innings for the third straight game, allowing five runs (one earned) on five hits and seven strikeouts.
Ashenfelter collected 11 strikeouts in Paris’ 3-2 loss Sept. 1 at Cairo, going 6⅓ innings before the reigning district champion Lady Bearcats walked it off. Ashenfelter had two hits and an RBI at the plate, Crusha added an RBI and Emma Ashenfelter finished with two hits.
The undefeated North Shelby with its seven seniors defeated Paris 17-5 on Tuesday in Paris as Ashenfelter completed the seven innings but allowed nine hits and four walks. Knightlee Mitten and Emma Ashenfelter each had two hits while Sutton finished with two RBI and Emma Ashenfelter had one driven in.
Paris (3-5) travels to Bevier on Monday.
Paris’ Kinnaman runner-up in Van-Far meet, Lady Coyotes win seven medals
There were several Lady Coyotes that left Vandalia with hardware.
Van-Far hosted a cross country meet Tuesday, where Paris’ Mairyn Kinnaman was the runner-up out of 25 runners in the girls high school race behind Elsberry’s Ellie Hartley, giving Paris four high school medalists and three junior high medalists. The top 15 in each race earned medals.
Kinnaman finished with a time of 23:04, and Hartley won with a time of 22:14. Paris’ Alexandra Tullius was fourth with a time of 24:21.
Paris’ Landen Chapman finished sixth out of 26 in the boys high school race with a time of 20:03, and Brayden DeOrnellas was 11th with a time of 21:19. Elsberry had four of the top five finishers, including the winning time of 18:27 set by Dashaun Dodson.
Paris’ top junior high runner was Ava Crain after she finished third in the girls race with a time of 11:32, Gretchen Crusha was 13th in the girls race at a time of 14:12 and Jackson Mikel rounded out the junior high boys medalists with a 15th-place time of 11:50.
Read More:PARIS ROUNDUP: Ashenfelter turns up heat, Paris defeats Van-Far 8-3