Blair Oaks rolls past Hickman to sweep home softball schedule

Blair Oaks pitcher Ava Willson prepares to throw the first pitch of Monday's game against Hickman at the Falcon Athletic Complex in Wardsville. (Greg Jackson/News Tribune)

WARDSVILLE -- Winning every game at the Falcon Athletic Complex may not have been a goal this season for the Blair Oaks softball team, but the Lady Falcons were still able to achieve that feat Monday night.

“It’s maybe not something that’s necessarily a team goal, but certainly winning at home is what you’re supposed to do,” Blair Oaks coach Sharon Buschjost said after a 17-0 victory in three innings against the Hickman Kewpies. “You’re supposed to win at home.”

Blair Oaks won all seven home games this season, outscoring opponents 64-6 in those wins.

“That’s nice to have, winning all of our home games,” Buschjost said.

The Lady Falcons sent 14 batters to the plate in the first inning, scoring 10 runs. Then they had 12 players come to bat in the second inning, adding seven more runs to win by run rule.

Kally Bruce had an RBI double to right-center field in her first at-bat of the first inning, then followed with a two-run double to left-center field in her second at-bat of the inning.

Bruce then sneaked a two-run double inside the third-base bag, driving in two more runs in the second inning. Never leaving the No. 3 spot in the batting order, the senior catcher has a team-high .508 batting average, getting five of her 22 RBI in Monday’s win.

“I’ve moved a few hitters around in those power spots, but the one that’s been consistent all season has been the No. 3 batter for us, and that’s Kally Bruce,” Buschjost said.

Addison Kusgen also went 3-for-3 for the Lady Falcons. She hit an opposite-field, two-run double to left-center field in the first inning. In the second, she added another double and a single.

Most left-handed hitters who come through Blair Oaks’ program are slap hitters. Kusgen is a rare commodity for the Lady Falcons, bringing power to all fields from the left-handed batter’s box.

“Seeing what she has accomplished this year, knowing she has worked so hard and tried to break into the lineup last year, she has earned every inning of her playing time this year,” Buschjost said.

Chesney Luebbering had an RBI single and Morgan Luebbering added an RBI double for the Blair Oaks offense.

Ava Willson retired nine of the 10 batters she faced in the pitcher’s circle, striking out five batters.

“She’s going to get her strikeouts, but she keeps us in games,” Buschjost said. “I felt like she dominated tonight.”

Ella Grant had a single in the first inning for Hickman (4-17). First-year coach Whitni Howell, who previously was an assistant coach at Capital City, is leading a Kewpie team that features just four upperclassmen on the varsity roster. Seven starters in Monday’s game were either freshmen or sophomores.

“She’s going to do everything she can to get them to another level of play,” Buschjost said of Howell. “There’s a lot of patience that’s needed in coaching, especially when you’re dealing with a lot of underclassmen.”

Blair Oaks was coming off a 1-3 record at the Hickman Kewpie Classic. Of the Lady Falcons’ 10 losses this season, seven have come in three tournaments.

This past weekend, Blair Oaks moved players around in the lineup, with districts quickly approaching.

“We’re looking at the team that’s going to take us to districts,” Buschjost said. “We want to see those girls get at-bats.”

Next up for Blair Oaks (15-10) is a matchup against Southern Boone (13-9-1) at 5:30 p.m. today in Ashland. The winner will likely receive the No. 2 seed in the Class 3 District 5 Tournament behind top-ranked Fatima.

Blair Oaks is ranked No. 3 in Class 3, while Southern Boone is No. 9.

The Lady Falcons also need a win to put the pressure on second-ranked Hallsville, which can wrap up the outright Tri-County Conference title with a win Thursday at California.

“It should be a very intense, competitive game (against Southern Boone),” Buschjost said.

In Monday’s JV game, Blair Oaks defeated Southern Boone 13-0 to improve its record to 8-6.

Haley Klebba pitched a four-inning perfect game, striking out eight of the 12 batters she faced for Blair Oaks.

Anita Norred had two singles and two RBI for the Lady Falcons, while Emma Caldwell one hit and two RBI. Olivia Green and Grace Werner each had one hit and one RBI.