Although winning games is the goal for every team, the Battle Spartans chose to focus on development during the early season.
The Spartans split two games Saturday in the sixth annual War on the Battlefield tournament, beating Logan-Rogersville 3-1 and losing 3-2 to Fulton.
“I’m happy with the way we hit, really happy with the way we played defense, we pitched well, but we just couldn’t get any breaks,” Battle softball head coach Joe Henderson said.
Despite the season just getting underway, the Spartans defense looked to be in midseason form already, only committing one error in the five games they played Friday and Saturday.
Coach Henderson has a unique challenge this season, having to replace seven of his nine starters from last year, but that challenge is a lot easier when you have a vocal leader on the team. That leader is Eliyah McCarthy (Minnesota State commit), the senior shortstop who is one of the two returning starters from last year.
“She’s the straw that stirs the drink, no question,” Henderson said.
McCarthy brings energy and confidence to a team with little experience, whether it be a lead-off triple to start the game against Logan-Rogersville or making a spectacular catch in the first inning against Fulton.
Starting pitcher Mya McCubbin (Truman State commit), also played a key role in getting the Spartans a win against Logan-Rogersville. McCubbin had three strikeouts and shut the Wildcats out for the first six innings.
Although Battle continued its good defense and had the bats swinging against Fulton, it wasn’t enough to get past the Hornets. Fulton’s defense kept escaping trouble by making big plays when they needed it. A double play to get out of the fourth inning, Rylee Hagens making an over-the-shoulder grab at center field, or Rylee Baker making a catch along the fence to escape the bases being loaded are a just a few examples of the Fulton defense coming up big in crucial moments.
Battle and Fulton only played six innings due to time restrictions.
Henderson has his team at 4-5 through the first nine games of the season but he believes his team is on track to be successful when it matters: during the playoffs. “Our schedule is one of the toughest in the state, we don’t back away,” he said.
The schedule in the coming week won’t get any easier for Henderson and his team as the Spartans travel across town to face Rock Bridge at 5:00 p.m. Tuesday and will host Fatima Thursday night at home. Both Fatima and Rock Bridge won their districts last season, with the Bruins also finishing third in the state tournament.