SOUTH WEBSTER — Starting her senior season, and simply put, “Sydney Strikeouts” was already living up to that nickname.
But, West standout Sydney McDermott did dish damage as well to the host and senior-less South Webster Jeeps —going 3-for-4 with a two-run double to cap the Senators’ breakout four-run fifth inning.
McDermott mastered the remainder in the pitcher’s circle, striking out 15 South Webster batters and only allowing five hits —as West won its season and Southern Ohio Conference Division II softball opener on Monday, by a count of 6-2 at windy South Webster.
West — which was both the SOC II AND Division III Region 11 runner-up to Wheelersburg last year — is going all in for league, district, and even regional championships this season, with the Valparaiso University signee McDermott leading the way.
The two-time Division III all-Ohio pitcher McDermott, a second-team all-stater last season after first-team accolades as a sophomore, picked up from where she left last year off — striking out the opening seven Jeeps she faced, before walking Jeep counterpart Jaiden White with one out in the third inning.
With two outs, McDermott made her lone mistake of Monday’s matchup —as South Webster freshman Addi Claxon clubbed her first career home run, going over the left-centerfield fence for a short-lived 2-1 lead.
Skylar Zimmerman doubled to right center to follow Claxon’s at-bat, but McDermott got her ninth strikeout for the third out —and recorded two strikeouts apiece in innings four and five.
She struck out her 14th in the sixth, and finally got another 1-2-3 in the final frame —with her 15th and final strikeout.
That game-ending K, to be exact, is the 664th of her career —thru only two total campaigns, and the opener of her senior season.
Unfortunately, her freshman season was canceled by the Ohio High School Athletic Association due to the coronavirus threat —or otherwise we could be at 1,000 strikeouts already.
Her coach, Dani Coleman, commented about McDermott following Monday’s performance.
“Sydney is just a gamer who works all year round on her craft,” she said. “Every year, she wants to bring something different and not just the same pitches all the time. She is always developing those other pitches to make sure that she comes up with something new. With her hitting, she works out all the time, was very strong with basketball, and she really wants to make a statement. She just doesn’t want to be a pitcher. She also wants to be a hitter. And she came up clutch for us tonight.”
Indeed, the batter’s box can be her comfort zone, but it likely doesn’t hold a candle to her pitcher’s circle.
The only other Jeep baserunners were a Lauren Kaltenbach slap single in the fourth, Claxon singling to right center in the fifth, an Ashley Spence single to left leading off the sixth, and finally a 6-4 fielder’s choice on the next at-bat.
McDermott faced four Jeeps apiece in innings four thru six, and got key defensive help in the form of no Senator errors.
Emma Sayre, the junior speedster second baseman, made two defensive putouts and one assist.
Aside from Claxon’s home run, no Jeep advanced beyond second base.
“No errors defensively. I am really impressed with our infield and outfield. Everybody really works hard, and they are into it,” said Coleman. “Very unified and under one goal.”
SWHS coach Andy Messer mentioned McDermott’s dominance as well.
“It’s always hard to face her because she’s a good pitcher. She hits the zone hard and doesn’t walk anybody. We tell our girls to go up there and be aggressive, sometimes it pays off and sometimes it doesn’t,” he said. “It’s a hard speed to catch up to. She moves the ball around the zone well. We got the home run and it gave us some momentum, and that’s what we tried to do. But they came back up and battled back and got four runs right back. That was the game basically.”
In the fifth, West scored all four runs with two outs on four consecutive hits, although Sayre set the table —by drawing a leadoff walk for the freshman White’s only free pass of the day.
Sayre stole second, then scored on cleanup Kaylor Pickelsimer’s single to right center.
Kate Rollins singled to left, Myla Mead mashed a ground-rule double that initially appeared to be a home run to plate Pickelsimer, and McDermott made it 5-2 with her two-run double to cross both Rollins and Mead.
The Senators secured an insurance marker in the sixth —started when Kylie Osborne dropped in a single to a shallow centerfield amid a triangle of Jeeps.
Macie Bradford flied out to right field, but the throw in to double up Osborne at first went wide of the bag — and Osborne bolted safely to second.
Osborne then scored on a double to left center by Emily Moore —the solo home run hero from West’s 1-0 win over Fairfield in last year’s Division III district championship tilt.
The Senators rapped out a dozen hits, as Pickelsimer’s, Rollins’ and Moore’s pair apiece followed McDermott’s three.
In the first, Bradford singled to left with one out and advanced on a passed ball, then Pickelsimer made it 1-0 with two outs by bringing Bradford in.
McDermott singled in the second and seventh stanzas, while Moore singled to left in the third and Rollins doubled down the left-field line leading off the last.
Bradford in the third and McDermott in the fourth also reached on errors —two of the four the young Jeeps made.
“We had some big clutch hits today and Emma Sayre is just dominant on the bases. She is the catalyst for everything,” said Coleman, of West’s offense. “She started that run today in the fifth. The girls have been working hard on development and in-and-out pitches. They’ve been really disciplined at the plate and it showed being more patient later on in the game. At the beginning, we were a little anxious to try and get out on the ball. But their pitcher threw pretty solid, pretty well, hit her spots. So I told the girls that we’re just going to have to be more patient as we came up after the third inning.”
White pitched well for South Webster, with only one walk and four earned runs plus three strikeouts —as both pitchers faced their opposing lineups three times through.
Kaltenbach at second base and Makayla Raynard in centerfield made five defensive putouts.
“We kind of beat ourselves a little bit with some of those errors, and some of the calls I didn’t think were right in line either, but that’s the way it goes,” said Messer. “I thought Jaiden kept them off-balance at times. To do that against one of the top two teams in the conference, I think she pitched very well and I am proud of her effort. Every time you go out there, it’s a learning experience.”
The loss dropped the Jeeps to 2-1, as South Webster edged Notre Dame 2-1 and Rock Hill 8-7 in Saturday’s Queen of The Hill at Rock Hill.
For the Senators, it’s the ideal start McDermott, Coleman and all West company wanted.
“A good start to the season today, and we’re never looking too far ahead. Only the upcoming game is what we’re preparing for,” said Coleman. “We really keep a narrow focus about what we want.”
* * *
West 100 041 0 —6 12 0
South Webster 002 000 0 —2 5 4
WHS: Sydney McDermott 7IP, 2R, 2ER, 1BB, 0HB, 5H, 0WP, 15K, 27BF
SWHS: Jaiden White 7IP, 6R, 4ER, 1BB, 0HB, 12H, 0WP, 3K, 26BF
W — Sydney McDermott; L — Jaiden White