ROACHDALE — Macie Shirk is on fire.
And so are her Mountie teammates.
Southmont has outscored their opponents 86-9 on their current win streak that ran to six games with a 5-0 shutout at North Putnam on Monday night.
Shirk drove in a pair of runs, including the game-decisive run in the first inning, scoring Hanna Nichols after Nichols led off the game with a base-hit. Shirk also tossed a complete game shutout from the circle, allowing five hits, walking one, and striking out nine.
“Macie did a great job,” Southmont coach Dan Taylor said. “I think we’ve only given up eight runs in the last five or six games. She has continued to pitch better and better for us. And really pitched well in all the tough situations she was in tonight.”
Shirk worked out of trouble on a number of occasions. The junior stranded a pair of base runners in the fourth, after Karyssa Miller and Emma Williams both reached to lead off the inning for the Cougars (7-9). Shirk fielded a ball off the bat of Brilye Schmitz and gunned down Miller at home, before recording a strikeout and pop-up to get out of the jam.
After plating one in the first, the Mounties (9-4) were unable to deliver the big hit until the sixth. Southmont left nine runners on base in innings 1-5, before Elizabeth Conkright led off the sixth with a hit and later scored on a RBI double from Nichols to start a scoring spree.
“Early on we left bases on, but I think you just have to give credit to Brewer (North Putnam pitcher),” Taylor said. “She was fooling our batters. Changing speeds, pitching outside, and doing the things you’re suppose to do against good teams, so we certainly respect her. What we’ve done over the last few weeks is we’ve adjusted. And we’ve had hitters stay and just grind it out. And that’s what I’m most proud about is sometimes when you’re a little baffled you just close up shop, but our girls kind of figured it out.”
Southmont had nine hits, including two apiece from Nichols and Emalie Ayers — the Mounties’ lead-off and No. 9 hitter.
“This is a team where we have a lot of girls contributing and I don’t think people talk about that enough,” Taylor added. “We’ve got nine hitters who can help, great pitching, great catching, and great defense.”
Taylor says the biggest change has been in a boost of confidence, especially on the defensive end.
“Our defensive confidence has gotten really good, and Macie’s pitching and ability to have an out pitch,” he said. “Her and coach Lewis (Barry) have figured it out and they’re really smart with a particular hitter on where they’re throwing them. And then offensively, you don’t have to score 15 every game. I like the way we battle and we are getting contributions from every girl in the lineup.”
Southmont will put its six-game winning streak on the line against Class 3A No. 4 Danville tonight at home, before a return trip to play the Warriors on Thursday. Taylor says it’s important to continue to focus on improving and how they play, and not so much on the final outcome.
“Our sectional is going to be tough, everyone has a winning record,” he said as they look toward the end of May. “First we say ‘let’s take care of business when we should,’ and then secondly we don’t talk about wins and losses too much in the dugout, we try to talk about our performance. Are we hitting and swinging at strikes, are we defensively sound? Are we rotating defensively, are we throwing strikes in the circle?
“What we try and do is focus the girls on not the overall outcome, but on their specific performance. I think what we see and we saw this in ‘19 and I think we are seeing it this year is if you look at the team now you can say ‘they’re a lot better than when the season started,’ And we of course want to be at our peak at the end of the year, so I’m real pleased.”
Southmont 5, North Putnam 0
SM 1 0 0 0 0 3 1 — 5 9 1
NP 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0 5 1
Records: Southmont 9-4, North Putnam 7-9
Hits: SM (Nichols 2, Ayers 2, Grino, Shirk, Manion, Craig, Conkright), NP (Rust 2, Schmitz, Williams, Wolf).
2B: SM (Manion, Nichols), NP (Williams).
Runs: SM (Nichols 2, Craig, Ayers, Rhodes).
RBI: SM (Shirk 2, Grino, Nichols).
WP: Shirk 7IP 5H 0R 1BB 9K.
LP: Brewer 7IP 9H 5R 5ER 4BB 10K