Sweeping a doubleheader, the Lakers won the first game 9-1 on the strength of four home runs and another dominating pitching performance from senior star Leah Vaughan. They then won the second game 7-0, scoring all seven runs in the last three innings.
Vaughan allowed just one run in seven innings with nine strikeouts to earn the win, helping Spring Lake improve to 10-2 on the season. Fruitport tried to make a late rally in the seventh inning. After scoring a run, Fruitport loaded the bases with just one out. However, Vaughan calmly caught a line drive up the middle and flicked the ball over to third base to complete the double play and end any chance of late drama.
“Pitching and defense are key (to winning games),” Spring Lake head softball coach Bill Core said. “Leah is our ace. She has been for the last 3-4 years, and our defense plays very confidently behind her. “Today's score's did not indicate how close these games were. Fruitport is always well-coached and played almost flawless defense tonight. We always feel fortunate to walk away with a win against them, and two is even better."
While Spring Lake dominated the first game, the second game was a challenge with neither team producing a run until the fifth inning. The Lakers left numerous runners on base early in the second game, which applied more pressure on freshman starting pitcher Avery Flynn, but their bats perked up as the sun started to set.
Spring Lake scored four runs in the sixth inning. Alayna Wyns got things started with a single. Wyns, who also threw out a runner at home plate in spectacular fashion in Game 2, came around to score in the sixth inning kicking off a stretch of four hits and a walk.
“(Wyns) really was a fireplug, the igniter of that (sixth) inning and then we scored four after (her hit),” said coach Core, who was also impressed with Wyns’ throw to home plate to protect the shutout.
While it took the Lakers a while to get going in Game 2, and they didn’t display the same type of power shown in Game 1, Core was pleased with his team’s ability to finish out the game, manufacturing runs when needed.
“A lot of times we seem not to strikeout very much, which puts pressure on opposing defenses, and Fruitport didn’t make any errors today,” Core said. “During the first game a lot of our runs came by the home run, but I was very happy with the way we swung the bat all night. If you were to look at strengths and weaknesses entering the season, we graduated five starters, so we had a lot of young kids. We’re starting to gain confidence on the base paths, and I’ve seen their confidence grow. I thought our base running was a key that helped us get into position to score, and I like our chances when that happens.”
Though Spring Lake and Fruitport no longer share a conference, they do share a lake, which makes them rivals by proximity. Fruitport coach Bob Dorman acknowledged the rivalry after the doubleheader, claiming it’s something that will stand the test of time.
“It is Spring Lake and it will always be a rivalry,” Dorman said. “I’ve got nothing but respect for Bill (Core). He’s got a great program. We really enjoy competing against each other because we know it is going to be good. As far as the rivalry goes, it will be forever. We share the same bayou, but it is a healthy rivalry, not an evil one. The kids know each other as friends and competitors, so it is always healthy competition. They definitely weren’t the results I wanted tonight, but Spring Lake is a good team. You can’t take that away.”
The star almost every time Spring Lake takes the field, Vaughan, electrified fans with her pitching in Game 1 and her hitting in Game 2. Vaughan collected three hits in the 7-0 Game 2 victory, continuously making solid contact to help spark a late-inning run.
“We know that Fruitport is a really good team and competitive, so we wanted to score early,” Vaughan said. “I was really trying to focus on making contact late in the second game. But it was a team effort.”
Freshman Avery Flynn mature beyond her years
It’s hard to follow a dominating pitching performance, but Flynn started Game 2 for Spring Lake after Vaughan tossed another electrifying gem. Not only did the freshman impress, she tossed a shutout and pitched her way out of several jams.
Flynn forced Fruitport to strand 14 runners on base in Game 2. Rachel Paulsen led Fruitport with three hits and a walk, but she never came around to score as the Lakers’ talented freshman made key pitches to stamp out all threats.
“I’ve been impressed with Avery’s demeanor since day one,” Core said. “She never makes excuses, she always says ‘yes coach’, and she always knows what situation she is in. She’s a player. A lot of people would look out there surprised she’s a freshman.
“I thought we would have to throw Leah a lot more innings this year because I didn’t know who would step up in that No. 2 pitcher role, but Avery has proven she can be a solid second choice.”
Vaughan was impressed with her teammate’s ability to adjust on the fly, stating that freshman have it tough because they are constantly facing opponents for the first time.
“It is insane. It’s so hard as a freshman because everything is new,” Vaughan said. “Playing with new teammates, a new coach, and new opponents. It is very beneficial for us to have a freshman who can go out and throw shutout games.”