ROSS TWP. — It went down as a defeat with an upside for Ross High School’s softball team.
The Rams charged back from a 7-0 deficit before dropping an 8-7 decision to Harrison in a Southwest Ohio Conference opener Monday on the RHS diamond.
The defending champion Wildcats will host Ross on Wednesday, and the Rams hope to use their comeback as a nice head of steam going into that important early-season contest.
» PHOTOS: Gallery from Ross vs. Harrison
“For sure,” said senior catcher Whitley Arno, who blasted a three-run homer in the fifth inning for the hosts. “It’s good for us that we didn’t back down like we did last year. We fought until the last out. Even though we got behind, we made sure we stayed humble and didn’t get too out of our heads.
“We’re not hanging our heads on this game because we’re coming Wednesday. We’re coming ready to play.”
Ross coach Pat Spurlock wasn’t surprised that his club kept swinging and eventually outhit Harrison 11-10.
“There’s no doubt we can score runs. This team’s super confident about that,” Spurlock said. “These girls want to win big time, so everybody’s going to take a loss a little bit personal. But they know what’s most important. The season’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”
Sophomore Mackenzie May lit a fire under Ross (6-3) with a leadoff home run in the bottom of the fifth. Two outs later, Arno’s sixth career long ball over the center-field fence closed the gap to 7-4.
“Oh, I was ready to hit that ball so far,” Arno said. “I said, ‘This pitch, I’m hitting, making contact.’ When I think about making contact and not hitting a home run, it usually ends up going pretty well. When I came back and hit home plate with all my teammates there, it felt good.”
The Wildcats (2-1) notched what proved to be the game-winning run on Meghan Peak’s RBI single in the top of the sixth.
May and Emily Poling plated runs for the Rams in the bottom of the inning, and Kaitlyn Justice tripled and came home on a Lexi Ploehs ground out in the seventh.
“I give Ross all the credit in the world,” Harrison coach Mike Schiering said. “They could’ve died. They could’ve just laid down and gone home in five innings. But they’re not going to quit.
“We took our foot off the gas. I think our guys learned a valuable lesson today that just because you’re up big doesn’t mean you’re going to stay up big, especially against good teams like Ross.”
Did the Wildcats get complacent after erupting for six runs in the first inning?
“I don’t think it was that,” Schiering said. “The girls were trying to hit home runs instead of just staying with what they were doing and having nice easy swings. Then they started getting frustrated.”
Gillian Metzger and Sami Wilkins drove in two runs apiece for Harrison, which didn’t strike out all day. Lita Caruso, Savannah Ross and Metzger all had two hits, and Ross added an RBI.
Southpaw Emily Wisman picked up the win in the circle for the Wildcats. She fanned three batters.
“We made a couple nice plays in the field. I think that won the game for us in key situations,” Schiering said. “I’m just pleased that we found a way to win. It’s big in the league to go up one on them, and we’ll see them again Wednesday.”
Poling and Ashley Shelton contributed two hits apiece for the Rams. Freshman Samantha Iannarino went the distance in the circle and took the loss.
“Sam’s young, but she’s a fighter,” Spurlock said. “She’ll just keep plugging. She’s only going to get better and better.”
Ross went 2-2 last weekend at Mercer County’s Lady Titan Classic in Harrodsburg, Ky. Spurlock said it was a very positive experience for the Rams.
“The girls got to stay in like an 8,000-square-foot cabin and had a really good time and just kind of bonded,” he said. “I think they realize what it’s going to take to reach our goals. It’s one pitch at a time, one play at a time, get behind each other and build each other up.”
WP — Emily Wisman (2-1); LP — Samantha Iannarino (5-2); HR — R: Mackenzie May, Whitley Arno. Records: H 2-1, 1-0 SWOC; R 6-3, 0-1 SWOC
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