It's a good day when the only run support a pitcher needs comes from her own bat, backed up by her catcher. On Tuesday, Comet ace Nicole DeKok hurled a no hitter, and founder herself on the bench after the 5th inning because the Comet bats 10-run-ruled Lake-Park-Audubon, forcing an early dinner and more time for homework.
The first inning built confidence for DeKok who pitched 12 pitches to rack up two strikeouts and a ground out to second. When the Comets came in for their first huddle the instructions from Comet Coach Craig Nersten were simple. The Comets were to swing the bat with confidence, and have fun hitting the ball. With DeKok only allowing two base runners on walks, striking out 8 through five innings, the Comets were primed to have fun at the plate swinging for the fences.
DeKok took some of the first hard cuts on the team, cracking her third home run in the past four games, while adding in two hits to go 3-for-4 at the plate. DeKok's steady glove behind the plate, Ruthanne Erickson, extended a hot streak from the batter's box, going 4-for-4 on the night with a pair of stolen bases. Between the pitcher-catcher duo, Hillcrest had enough runs to ease their shoulders in their at bats, causing some hard hit balls to find green grass consistently.
Centerfielder Anna Newman was one Comet who let it rip throughout the day. A couple of key hits with runners on pushed Hillcrest ahead even further. In the third inning, first baseman Jordan Matranga found herself at the plate with the bases loaded. Because of the confidence in the pitching staff, Matranga was given a green light to unload on a set of pitches, connecting on one the carried her around to third base, clearing the bases and putting the Comets in a formidable lead.
"It's good to see the girls starting to swing better," Coach Nersten quipped after his Lady Comets soared to an early victory. "They're focusing on hitting the ball to the sweet spot on the bat and its showing. Lots of them are really stinging the ball and putting it in good spots for us."
The Comets are now 8-1 on the season, 7-0 in the conference. Nersten notes games like Tuesday's are important confidence boosters as the Comets look to playoffs where they'll need to keep swinging the bat with aggression. "We got some big tests coming up on the diamond soon and I'm excited for our girls. It should be a fun few days."
The Comets look to close out the conference in the next few games, facing West Central on Friday and Brandon-Evansville on Monday. Currently the Comets are in first place in the Pheasant Conference.