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Bellmont opened their season on Wednesday night at the Teepee but may have left their bats in Florida as Bluffton's Kaitlyn Lovell pitched a one-run no-hitter against the Squaws in a 5-1 decision.
The Squaws looked like a team who had only been on the ball diamond once this season...because they were. Tuesday night's practice was the first time coach Rich Burkhalter was able to get out on the field between the weather this month and then a spring break vacation last week.
Compounding the lack of practice time for the Bellmont coaching staff was a shortage of girls this season trying out for softball leading to the difficult decision to keep all 18 girls rather than cut to make a roster of 12-13.
"We're a 3A school with 2A participation right now but we're going to have to just make do," coach Burkhalter noted after the game. "It's going to take time but I'm still confident that when we find where girls are going to play and we can get a more consistent rotation."
The rotation worked fine for two innings as both teams went scoreless but in the third inning, Caroline Mettler singled to start the inning, then was hit in two batters later by Kennedy Johnson. Connelly Mettler would score on the next at bat as Danielle Brown reached on a catching error at first base.
The Squaws were fortunate to keep the damage to a minimum, however, as the Tigers would load the bases with nobody out one batter later. Starting pitcher, Janaya Wilder struck out the next batter, then got designated player Ashton Perry to pop up harmlessly in the infield. A ground ball on the next at bat got the Squaws out of a pickle down just 2-0.
The Squaws managed their first base runner of the game in the third inning when Ashley Piper reached first base on a throwing error by the shortstop. She would be stranded, however, and Bellmont would go scoreless once again.
In the top of the fourth, both Mettler girls would score once again, this time, Caroline reached on an error and was hit in by her sister, Connelly on the next at-bat. Connelly would score after stealing second and third, then jogging in on a sacrifice fly to left-centerfield.
The third run of the inning came when Kendall Schreiber ripped a single up the middle scoring Johnson who reached base on a passed ball strikeout.
Bellmont would get their only run of the game in the bottom of the fourth as Wilder and Taylor Kuhnle drew back-to-back walks.
After Wilder took third on a steal and the runners were on the corners, Kuhnle stole second base. The Tigers tried to throw out the senior and in the process, Wilder took advantage and stole home leaving both runners safe. Bellmont would not take advantage of anymore runs in the inning, however, as Lovell would strike out the next three Squaws in order to get out of the jam.
The lack of offense was not yet a cause for concern for coach Burkhalter, but he made his point clear when explaining his expectations.
"We've got to be able to produce one through five in the order for us to be successful. Lovell pitched a no-hitter on us and we were only able to get a run by manufacturing it in the fourth inning."
The Tigers would load the bases once again in the fifth, but relief pitcher, Hailee Hormann worked her way out of the jam and Bluffton once again stranded three on the base paths. Both teams would go quietly in the sixth and seventh innings.