A six-run first inning by Pella Christian set the tone for the Lady Eagles in an 11-1, five-inning win at Knoxville Thursday night. Three of those initial six runs came off the bat of Jaynee VandeWeerdhof, who crushed a 1-1 pitch well over the left field wall for a three-run homer. Pella Christian head coach Nate Van Wyk said VandeWeerdhof was able to clear some of her own mental hurdles with one big swing.
“She’s always been able to hit. That’s never been a problem for her,” said Van Wyk. “She’s been playing a little bit of mental games with herself lately – getting underneath the ball and popping it up a lot. She hit well in [Thursday’s] JV game and she hit well against Pella in the JV game, and I just told her, ‘here’s your shot, you’re gonna get a chance,’ and she just made the most of it.”
The Lady Eagles then added three more runs in the second inning to take a commanding 9-0 lead early in the contest. While Pella Christian certainly swung the bats well, the Panthers played a heavy role in their own demise; committing numerous turnovers in the infield that extended innings for Pella Christian at the plate.
“We had five errors within two innings. You can’t win that way. We had eight errors in five innings,” said Knoxville head coach Steph Christner. “All six runs that we gave up in the first inning were all unearned. We should have been out of the inning. We worked behind on the mound, then we made errors behind her [Emily Lee]. Emily came out and threw great from then on – she worked ahead in the count, she did what she had to [and] got the ground balls and fly balls that we needed – they [defense] just didn’t come and play for her.”
Pella Christian catcher Tessa Howerzyl finished her night 3-for-4 at the plate with two doubles and a pair of runs scored, and Sami Veenstra was 2-for-3 with two runs and a sacrifice fly to lead Pella Christian. Shannon Fynaardt allowed no earned runs on three hits and one walk, while striking out two Knoxville batters to get the win in the pitcher’s circle. Her counterpart, Knoxville’s Emily Lee, only gave up two earned runs on ten hits and one walk in the losing effort. Taylor Carter, Cheyenne Jones and Kylee Bishop accounted for the Panthers’ three hits.
The loss drops Knoxville to 8-17 overall and 4-7 in the Little Hawkeye Conference, entering tonight’s league finale against Pella High. That game will be broadcast live on AM 1320 KNIA and streamed live at kniakrls.com. The win pulls the Pella Christian softball team to 7-20 overall and also to 4-7 in the conference. The Lady Eagles conclude regular season play tonight against Norwalk.