CARY — The Green Hope softball team opened Southwest Wake Athletic Conference play with a thorough 5-1 road win over Cary Wednesday night.
Maddison Clifford ripped a two-run single, Natsumi Koyama provided stellar defense, and Ali Then gave a gritty effort pitching as Green Hope improved to 4-0 overall, 1-0 conference.
Cary had some hits and made solid contact throughout but could only a plate a single run in falling to 1-3, 0-1.
Highlight reel: Clifford followed up a single in her first at-bat with another base-knock in her second plate appearance, the decisive two-run single.
Koyama flashed her leather in the first frame with a terrific diving grab of a hard-hit liner off the bat of Erica Hayes, then later added an RBI single.
What worked: Then’s pitching – again. Then wasn’t as effective as she was in tossing a perfect game at Jordan, but the senior was at her best with runners on base.
The only blemish was Priscilla Sanchez’s run-scoring triple in the fourth for Cary.
“Ali’s become quite a leader for us,” said Green Hope coach Morgan Caddell. “I have a great deal of confidence in her.”
Needs improvement: For Cary, not allowing a big inning such as Green Hope’s four-run second, would have made the Imps far more competitive.
“From the fourth to the seventh inning it was a very good game,” said Cary coach Michael Charlton. “We just have to reverse things from the early innings when things got away from us.”
For Green Hope pitcher Then, making sure she uses all of the plate for her pitches. She left some juicy offerings that better offenses may take advantage of.
“I like to stay focused when I’m on the mound,” Then said. “It helps me to succeed.”
Going forward: Green Hope came in averaging more than 10 runs per game, so Cary can take some solace in containing the Falcons.
The Imps stranded two runners in the first inning, left Sanchez at third in the fourth frame and failed to score with the bases loaded in the sixth.
Cary will need to get its bats going in the clutch to get into the win column consistently.