WATERVILLE — Pitching and defense, the tried and true idiom of diamond sports. For Mt. Ararat pitcher Alana Weaver, the second half of that equation holds the most significance.
The senior expertly pitched to contact all afternoon long, while her Messalonskee counterpart Lauren Patrie struggled with her control, as Mt. Ararat posted a convincing 12-3 win over Messalonskee at Colby College on Wednesday in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference Class A softball opener for both teams.
Weaver, staked to a 7-0 lead through just an inning and a half, was more than happy to let the defense behind her handle the lion’s share of the chances in a game where she scattered seven hits and collected only five strikeouts.
“I’ve tried to always be as accurate as I can be, but I did have the team to back me up when (Messalonskee) did make contact,” Weaver said. “They were always there for me. It’s nice to have them.”
Weaver’s first pitch of the game was stung into left field off the bat of Messalonskee shortstop Alyssa Smith. It was not a sign of things to come, as Weaver retired the next nine in order.
She closed out the first inning with back-to-back strikeouts, but the next 10 outs Mt. Ararat recorded came via the able hands of its defense.
Mt. Ararat coach Allen Graffam said Weaver’s performance was a product of her maturing as a pitcher.
“She’s been doing that for a long time,” Graffam said. “She doesn’t get rattled, she doesn’t walk many people. If they hit it, we just have to make a play. We have a good defense.”
Patrie did not have the same success.
The junior hurler walked a total of 14 batters and was charged with three wild pitches. Over the course of the first two innings, Patrie walked seven batters — five of whom would come around to score as Mt. Ararat built its big early cushion.
Three more walks in the fourth inning led to two more Mt. Ararat runs. Senior shortstop Katelyn Cox (3 for 3, 3 RBIs) delivered a two-run double in the second inning, while junior first baseman Morgan Johnson’s drive to left field one-hopped the fence for another two-run double in the fourth.
“It was very frustrating,” said Messalonskee coach Samantha Moore, who felt Patrie wasn’t getting the benefit of the doubt on some pitches over the corners. “It could be easy to blame the weather and blame the day and blame it on the first game out, but we’ve put in a lot of work. I feel like there are no excuses at this point. We just need to focus on what we need to fix, and that’s what we’ll be working on.”
Belle Benner (2 for 4, 3 RBIs) delivered a crucial blow with a two-run single to right-center in the fifth that made it an 11-2 game.
“Our bats have really been on fire this season so far, with the scrimmages and stuff,” Weaver said. “I think we kind of knew that this was going to be a good year for us. Last year, we had a strong team and we only lost one senior off of that team. We kind of felt like we could come out strong.”
Sarah Labbe’s RBI infield hit in the bottom of the fourth cut into a nine-run deficit, but Messalonskee was unable to turn baserunners into big rallies against Weaver. To wit: Smith went 3 for 4 with a double out of the leadoff spot, but the heart of the Eagle order was unable to bring her around to score at any point in the contest.
Weaver, who may have taken some lumps as an underclassman, was certainly a big reason the Messalonskee lineup never got into a rhythm.
“I trust my defense completely,” Weaver said. “My pitches, I think I’ve just improved over the years. I had some downfalls, but I think I’ve gotten over them.”
Travis Barrett — 621-5621