COLUMBIA — With just three starters back from last year’s softball team, Rock Bridge coach Joe Henderson decided to turn to a group of freshmen to help spark the Bruins in the season opener against the Fatima Comets.
They responded exactly the way he hoped they would.
After rain in Westphalia forced the teams to move Monday’s game from Fatima to the Bruins’ field, Rock Bridge jumped out to a seven-run lead en route to a 12-2 win in six innings. According to Henderson, the win was the first time the Bruins had beaten the Comets in 10 years.
“It’s really cool,” sophomore pitcher Amy Buildner said. “It feels really good to be the first class to beat them in a while.”
The Bruins’ offense quickly buried Fatima with six runs in the first two innings, and Buildner and fellow sophomore Amber Beeler kept the Comets from scoring until the fifth inning.
“We didn’t know what to expect, we started five freshmen tonight,” Henderson said. “We stung the ball hard, and I think it set the tone.”
The biggest contributors for the Bruins were junior first baseman Sara Stafford and freshman designated hitter Danielle Linneman. In the first inning, Linneman’s sacrifice fly gave the Bruins their first run, her first of four RBIs.
“She’s been hitting the ball really good in practice, and she’s been trying to find her way into the varsity lineup,” Henderson said. “At practice, she did, and she’s not let up.”
As a result, Henderson decided to alter his batting order. Instead of having Stafford bat third or fourth, Henderson moved her to second to give his team another weapon early in the lineup.
“The freshmen have been hitting it so hard that we took a shot,” he said. “They expect that two-hole to bunt, and obviously, that’s not a bunter.”
Stafford, who had three doubles, said that the performance by the top of the lineup motivated the rest of the team to go out and do the same.
“It makes everybody else on the team want to hit, because everybody’s fighting for a position,” she said. “It helps everybody’s confidence as well as mine.”
Buildner held the Comets scoreless for four innings before giving way to Beeler after walking the bases loaded in the fifth inning. After escaping with a 7-2 lead, Beeler got herself out of another bases-loaded jam the next inning, keeping the lead intact with some help from her defense.
“You have all these freshmen, and it was a test, it was a gut-check to see how nervous they would be,” Henderson said. “They’re ready to face it. They bent, but they didn’t break, and last year we’d have broken many times.”
Buildner agreed with her coach that this year’s team is much improved from last year’s 8-15 season.
“We’re not going to let up,” she said. “We’re a new team, a totally new team.”
ROCK BRIDGE TENNIS: Rock Bridge defeated Glendale 9-0 in a combination singles and doubles meet at Bethel Park on Monday. The victory makes the Bruins 1-0 on the season.