Ashton Smith came up big on her birthday a year ago collecting her first varsity win inside the pitchers circle, and she followed suit this year on the her big day again. She surrendered just three hits in a 1-0 shutout win over a good Gibson City squad on Thursday, March 22. Smith worked five innings striking out nine while walking none in her first victory of the young season. Kaitlyn Reifsteck collected the save fanning four and walking one in two innings of work.
There wasn’t much offense from either team as the two squads combined for just six hits in the pitchers’ duel. Freshman Kendyl Ring led the way for Tuscola delivering two hits from the left side of the plate out of the two hole, including the game winner. Ring drove in Abbey Jacob in the bottom the third frame on a squeeze bunt following a single up the middle by Jacob. The sophomore outfielder stole second and third and scored on a bunt by Ring. From there it was all pitching and defense as the Warriors worked out of leadoff runners on in both the fifth and sixth frames.
In the fifth Smith gave up a single to left then fanned the next three to end the threat. She gave up another base knock to start the sixth before giving way to Reifsteck who fanned two, walked one and induced a ground ball to Alexis Koester to keep the one-run advantage. She struck out two more in the top of the seventh and catcher Ashtyn Clark ended the suspense with a put out on a pop fly in foul territory securing the victory.
Smith had the hill earlier in the week on Monday, March 19, as well, getting the start against a very good Villa Grove team in a back and forth affair. The righty got a no decision firing four and a third against the Blue Devils giving up seven runs, only one earned on eight hits and a walk, striking out five on what was one of the windiest days of the spring as of yet. Reifsteck collected the 8-7 win closing out the fifth, sixth and seventh, allowing just one to reach base and striking out a pair.
Defensively the wind created havoc from the start making every ball in the air an adventure. Tuscola gave up two in the first on two wind aided pop ups and a pair of errors. They allowed one more to cross in the third increasing the lead to 3-0 Devils, but the Warriors stormed back with a crooked number in the bottom half to knot it at 3’s.
Isabelle Shelmadine doubled to jump start the offense, moved on a sac bunt by Ring and scored on a two-RBI double by Jackie Watson. Watson also pushed Claire Ring across who reached on a walk. The junior third baseman then scored on a single by Allison Clark to tie it up 3-3. Back to back singles by Smith and Shelmadine set the table for a sac fly by K. Ring and a wild pitch put the Warriors in front by two 5-3 after four.
The full story can be found in the Wednesday, March 28 edition of The Tuscola Journal.