MUNCIE — As the margin for error grows smaller, the Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman defense toughens.
The Buffaloes were flawless in the field Thursday as they maintained their lead in the Vermilion Valley Conference. Thanks to Lexi Sliva’s fourth softball shutout in league play, G-RF/C topped Oakwood 17-0.
Two days ago, Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman was unbeaten in VVC games. Every other league member had at least two conference losses. A Wednesday loss to Schlarman placed the Buffaloes in position where another setback could potentially find the defending champions sharing first place in the league.
G-RF/C regrouped quickly against Oakwood and a freshman pitcher — right-hander Kylie Harden — who was making her varsity debut.
“I’m proud of the way we came back,” Buffaloes coach Stefanie Davis said. “They were overconfident and needed a loss to get them back down to Earth. They needed a reality check.”
Catie Brandt matched her home run total from 2012, smashing her fourth to spark the Buffaloes’ offense.
“We needed a confidence-booster,” Brandt said. “Coach told us to use (the Schlarman loss) as a learning tool.”
Center fielder Megan Burris and shortstop Brittany Hay made highlight-reel catches to back the pitching of Sliva, who won her 10th game. She walked two and struck out two.
“She’s a consistent pitcher who has confidence in the defense behind her,” Davis said.
The Comets’ Harden retired the first four batters she faced and impressed coach Jesse Johnson. “She threw first-pitch strikes on 20 hitters,” he said. “That’s a good first step.”
He realizes it was a tough assignment to open against a team that is 8-1 in the VVC.
“They have five or six that can hit,” Johnson said. “(Catcher Callan) Hall has made major improvements and is a lot quicker. Hay plays like a boy. That’s the biggest compliment I can give.
“She is smooth. She was like that as a freshman. You could tell she would be in charge.”
Davis said Hay is the team’s defensive anchor.
“Brittany is a go-getter who is constantly encouraging the team,” Davis said. “She
has her mind on every situation.”
Brandt, Hall and Sliva each had two hits for G-RF/C. Madison Cramer scored four runs.
Sliva allowed two hits, back-to-back singles by Abbagale Black and Makenzie Gayler in the third inning.
Davis is trying to establish a set lineup. An injury to outfielder LeeAnn Conrad has resulted in a rotation system.
“I’ve had a different right fielder the last five games,” Davis said. “Basically I’ve said, ‘Show me you want it.’ ”
The same request can be applied to the VVC title.