It’s a wonderful thing when a team can gel as the postseason approaches.
On Monday evening, the Notre Dame Lady Titans showed off the qualities that have allowed them to go on their own late-season tear as Notre Dame picked up its ninth victory in a row by collecting an 8-1 win over the West Lady Senators in a nonconference bout that was played on the campus of Notre Dame High School.
For J.D. Whitman, he couldn’t have asked for much more out of his Notre Dame squad if he tried.
“I’m really happy with the team,” Whitman said. “We came out in the first inning and hit the ball very well by spraying it around. The girls executed and they played really good defense. I’m very pleased. They played very well tonight.”
As far as Dani Coleman was concerned, West hurt itself by not being patient at the plate.
“Our quality at-bats were low today,” Coleman said. “We didn’t work the count, which is something that has been successful for us in the past. We just didn’t do that today.”
From the outset, Notre Dame wasted no time taking control of the affair as the Lady Titans used its plate discipline to jump out to the early lead.
After leadoff hitter Maggie Whitman flew out to left field, Molly Hoover responded by lining a double all the way to the center field fence — and from there, the Notre Dame machine got rolling.
Behind Cassie Schaefer’s RBI single to right field, Makayla Hadsell’s RBI double down the left field line, a single from Hagen Schaefer, and a 6-3 RBI groundout from Sydney Whitman, the Lady Titans were able to collect a 3-0 lead after an inning of play as Notre Dame’s strong start at the plate allowed the Lady Titans to accumulate a 7-for-11 mark and eight RBI at the dish with runners in scoring position.
“I don’t want to jinx us or anything, but we’re on a little bit of a hot streak right now,” Whitman said. “You want to get hot at the end of the regular season.”
Getting an excellent pitching performance from Maggie Whitman in the circle also didn’t hurt Notre Dame’s cause. The Lady Titans’ top throwing arm in the pitching rotation notched a complete game four-hitter while striking out five and only walking two. Whitman only allowed one run — and didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning — en route to obtaining the decision.
“That was one of Maggie’s better pitching performances this year,” Whitman said. “She was fired up before the game started. When you’re playing a team that’s in a bigger division, you want to win that game. She took the ball tonight and she did very well. I’m very proud of her. She hit her spots. We only threw about four or five fastballs all night, and basically kept throwing screwballs and changeups.”
“Maggie’s always been good about mixing up speeds and keeping her opponents off-balance,” Coleman said. “She’s good at knowing when to change speeds, as well.”
With Maggie Whitman throwing effectively from the hill, and the Lady Titans continuing to field the ball effectively, Notre Dame continued to build its advantage.
After a triple by Hagen Schaefer — where the senior reached on a ball that looked to be out of the strike zone and still came within a foot of launching the ball out of the ballpark — and a RBI double by Sydney Whitman helped increase the Lady Titans’ lead to a 4-0 margin after three innings of play, Notre Dame broke the game open for good in the fourth frame.
Catelynn Ball — who led off the fourth frame — led off the bottom half of the inning by poking a ball through the West defense by sending a bloop single out to shallow right field. Baylee Webb then sent a hard-hit ball to the right field corner, which allowed Webb and Ball to sail into scoring position, and Molly Hoover’s single through the infield scored Ball.
Then, the Schaefers made their mark in the inning.
After working the count through fouling off a few pitches, Cassie Schaefer launched a double down the left field line to score Ball and Webb. Hagen Schaefer then capped off the inning by sending a high-arching double to right field that sailed — thanks to the high wind — out of the reach of Madison Cochran, which allowed the younger Schaefer to come as Notre Dame took an 8-0 lead after four innings of work.
“Baylee Webb hit the ball well, Sydney (Whitman) drove in a couple of runs out of the six-hole tonight, Makayla (Hadsell) drove in some runs, and Catelynn hit the ball well,” Whitman said. “From top to bottom, we hit the ball well. We’re seeing the ball good right now.”
In the sixth inning, West tried to get a rally going as Makayla White’s double to right field was followed by Terra Butcher’s RBI double that was sent down the left field line that cut the lead to an 8-1 tally after six complete innings.
“Makayla, Terra, and Haleigh all put the ball in play today (for base hits),” Coleman said of the positives. “Bri (Bricker) put down a good sacrifice bunt that moved a runner over (in the third inning), too. But over the entire game, we just didn’t execute from a hitting standpoint. From a defensive standpoint, we didn’t have any errors, and the girls executed what was hit to them perfectly.”
And in the seventh, the Lady Senators looked like they were going to be able to put a scare into the Lady Titans.
Following an error, a drawn walk by Dreama Sadler and a RBI single by Briana Bricker, West was able to load the bases, which forced Whitman to call time to talk to his team. However, on the ensuing play, Notre Dame was able to turn a Kayleigh Coleman flyout into an 8-1-5 double play to end the game without allowing another run to cross the plate.
“There was a little hiccup in the seventh inning with a couple of little blunders, but we cleaned it up, and Hagen threw a great ball to Maggie, who fired the ball over to third to make the double play and end the game.”
With Monday’s contest in the books, both teams will look forward to the opponents that await as the season winds down. Notre Dame will host Minford on Wednesday in a battle that is expected to have an excellent amount of intensity, while West will host Ironton on Thursday as the Lady Senators look to use the Lady Tigers as a measuring stick for Coal Grove next week.
“The contest with Minford is going to be a humdinger,” Whitman said. “There’s going to be a lot of people who want to see that game. We play every year, and Preston (Messer) and I are really good friends. It’s going to be a heck of a game.”
“We have seen Coal Grove in the past, and we played them last year,” Coleman said of his sectional final matchup. “We know what their strengths and weaknesses are like they do us. It’s going to be a battle. Our records are similar, and for our seniors, they’re really excited to be in this battle.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7