Cooper leads Tigers past Mustangs in home opener

Circleville coach Dave Truex earns 400th career win

By Brad Morris

An adjustment to her approach at the plate has paid big dividends in the first week of the season for Cara Cooper.

The Circleville senior shortstop continued swinging a hot bat on Wednesday by going 3-for-3 with three RBI and a run scored in a 5-4 win over the visiting Westfall Mustangs.

“I’m really focused on having a quality at-bat every time I step to the plate,” Cooper said. “I want to get ahead in the count, look for my pitch to hit and make solid contact. So far, so good.”

Cooper earned All-Ohio honors as a junior for the Tigers and is off to the best start of her prep career with 17 hits in her first 20 at-bats for an astounding .850 batting average.

Circleville senior Cara Cooper doubles to right field during the third inning on Wednesday against Westfall.

Circleville is averaging 13.2 runs per game in the first five days of the season, led by Cooper and senior catcher Chandler Hayes.

“Cara and Chandler are both really locked in right now and, overall, I am pleased with the approach that our team has shown so far when they go up to the plate,” Circleville coach Dave Truex said. “Our girls are going up to the plate with a plan and are looking for their pitch to hit.

“Our offense has been the most consistent aspect of our team so far this season.”

The Tigers surrendered a 10-0 lead on Tuesday in a 13-12 loss to host Chillicothe in eight innings. Cooper discussed bouncing back from that setback and overcoming deficits of 2-0, 3-1 and 4-3 to defeat Pickaway County rival Westfall in their home opener.

“We knew we had to move on from that setback, because Westfall creamed us a couple of years ago when we played them and they always have a good team,” she said. “Our coaches challenged us after the Chillicothe loss to show what type of team we have by how we responded to that adversity. Obviously, we learned that we have to finish what we started.”

Westfall opened the county matchup with three consecutive singles by Delana Landefeld, Ava Heath and Olivia Dumm to load the bases with no outs. Makayla Cook then hit into a fielder’s choice to score Landefeld. Gabby Henry followed with a double to left to knock in Heath, but the Tigers were able to complete a successful relay with Hayes applying the tag at home plate to deny the Mustangs a third run in the inning.

Circleville made it 2-1 in its half of the first when Hayes reached on an inside single, advanced to second on a ground out by Claire Davis and scored on a single to right off the bat of Cooper.

Westfall answered in the second when Grace Long singled to center, advanced to second on a throwing error on a pickoff attempt, to third on a ground out by Landefeld and scored on a single to left courtesy of Heath.

Westfall’s Ava Heath hits an RBI single in the second inning.

The Tigers knotted the score at 3-3 in the third when Hayes reached on an error by the left fielder and scored on a double to right off the bat of Cooper. The ball was misplayed in right field for an error, allowing Cooper to circle the bases on the play.

Westfall took its final lead of the night in the fifth when Dumm worked a walk and scored on a double to right off the bat of Cook, who was thrown out at third base trying to stretch the knock into a triple.

Amaya Fauver singled to right to start the bottom of the fifth and was replaced by Hope Seiler. Seiler advanced to second on a wild pitch, was joined on the base pads when Claire Davis coaxed a walk and scored on a single to center off the bat of Cooper. A throwing error on the play allowed the runners to move to second and third.

Ella Michael followed with a foul pop out behind third base that Davis tagged and scored on to give the Tigers their first lead of the game at 5-4.

Circleville’s Gabby McConnell (back) and Claire Davis are all smiles after McConnell struck out the final batter of the night looking in a 5-4 win over Pickaway County rival Westfall.

After allowing six hits in the first two innings, Gabby McConnell settled down to allow just one more over the final five frames.

The Circleville junior retired the final eight batters she faced, including sitting down the top third of Westfall’s lineup in the seventh. McConnell struck out the leadoff batter in the seventh and recorded the 21st out of the night by striking out the final Westfall batter looking.

“We are still working with Gabby on a few things and being more consistent. It’s tough to be a pitcher and play two other sports like Gabby does, but she’s a competitor and what I liked about her tonight is she kept competing despite the slow start and eventually settled into the game,” Truex said. “Gabby threw a couple of nice innings to finish the game, including retiring the top of their lineup there in the seventh with a couple of big strikeouts.”

McConnell allowed seven hits and four earned runs to claim the win. Dumm worked six innings and allowed six hits and five runs (three earned) for Westfall. She walked a batter and struck out five.

The win was the 400th for Truex at the helm of the Circleville softball program.

“When you win 400 games, it means you have been doing it for a long time and you’ve been fortunate to have a lot of good players and good people come through the program,” Truex said.

Heath paced the Mustangs by going 2-for-4 with an RBI and run scored and Cook doubled and knocked in a pair of runs.

“It was nice to see the girls come out, string together some hits and score a few early runs, but we need to work on continuing to be more consistent,” Westfall coach Lance Heath said. “We only had one hit after the second inning.

“We’ll keep working on it day-by-day and get ready for our conference opener next week.”

The Tigers (4-1) open Mid-State League Buckeye Division play on Friday with a trip to Bloom-Carroll, weather permitting. The Mustangs (0-2) commence Scioto Valley Conference play on Monday when they host Adena in a big early season tilt.

Circleville’s Chandler Hayes singled and scored twice on Wednesday in a 5-4 win over Westfall.

Circleville 5, Westfall 4
Westfall 210 010 0 — 4 7 3
Circleville 102 020 x —5 6 1
Dumm and Cook; McConnell and Hayes.

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