Blair Oaks softball blanks Eugene 4-0 in home opener

Madison Vaughan of Blair Oaks takes a swing during Thursday’s game against Eugene at the Falcon Athletic Complex in Wardsville. (Josh Cobb/News Tribune)

WARDSVILLE -- If you’re going to make mistakes, they tend to be easier to tolerate in a win.

Despite a few baserunning miscues and a couple of fielding hiccups, the Blair Oaks Lady Falcons came away with a 4-0 victory against the Eugene Lady Eagles in Thursday’s softball home opener at the Falcon Athletic Complex.

“I told the team, yes, we won the game according to the scoreboard, but we didn’t win the game up to our standards,” Blair Oaks coach Sharon Buschjost said. “All the players agreed with that.

“It was a win, but it wasn’t the kind of game that we were necessarily pleased with in all phases.”

  Gallery: Blair Oaks Softball vs. Eugene

One phase that played out well for Blair Oaks was pitching.

Ava Willson retired the first nine batters of the game, striking out six in a row. The Blair Oaks junior right-hander held Eugene to two hits through the first six innings.

“She works extremely hard,” Buschjost said. “She’s thrown a lot of innings for us in six games, but we have to remind her that she doesn’t have to be perfect all the time. She has shown the fight to get out of innings when they have had a leadoff single, so she does battle hard to leave zeros on the scoreboard.”

While Willson finished with 11 strikeouts in seven shutout innings, Buschjost was just as pleased with the zero walks allowed.

“Any coach will tell you, that’s a whole ’nother level of happiness, when you don’t have the walks to contend with,” Buschjost said.

Baley Rackers led off the bottom of the first inning for the Lady Falcons with a four-pitch walk, then she stole second base and moved to third on a groundout.

Kally Bruce sneaked a single up the middle out of the shortstop’s reach, scoring Rackers to put Blair Oaks in front 1-0.

Bruce, who went 3-for-3 on Thursday, improved her batting average to .625 (10-for-16) to lead the Blair Oaks offense through the first week of the season.

“She by far has been our best hitter so far,” Buschjost said. “She’s just so consistent, you know what you’re getting with her. You very seldom see any wild swings.”

Bruce added an infield single in the third inning and slugged an opposite-field double to right-center field with one out in the fifth.

“When she hits it, I just kind of joke with her and use different terms like ‘lasers’ and ‘BBs,’” Buschjost said.

Eugene committed three errors in each of the second and third innings, but the Lady Eagles only yielded one run in each frame, trailing 3-0.

“The mental mistakes of an error, getting that adrenaline running and thinking of where I’m going to throw the ball. We had situation that was an overthrow, then another overthrow into the dugout that scored a run,” Eugene coach Patrick Truman said.

Madison Vaughan walked to start the second inning, stole second base and then scored on a pair of errors.

In the third, Chesney Luebbering reached base on an error, moved to third base on another error and then scored on an errant throw on a double-steal to make it a three-run lead for the Lady Falcons.

Eugene had multiple baserunners in the fourth, sixth and seventh innings, but couldn’t get a runner to cross home plate.

“We started making progress, in terms of getting onto the pitching,” Truman said.

Vaughan plated Blair Oaks’ final run in the fifth inning with an infield single deep in the hole between third base and shortstop, scoring courtesy runner Lydia Sullens.

“Adding that fourth run was huge,” Buschjost said. “Madison’s bat has come alive lately, and I’ve been trying to get her to focus on contact a little more.”

Eugene’s best scoring opportunity came in the sixth inning. The Lady Eagles had runners on first and second base with no outs, but a miscommunication on an infield fly out turned into a double play. Willson got the next batter to hit a grounder back to the circle to end the inning.

Kaylee Kempker pitched six innings for Eugene, finishing with three walks and one strikeout. However, she made several big fielding plays in the circle, having a hand in all three outs in the sixth inning.

“She was in charge of that circle,” Truman said. “She made a lot of outs on her own.”

Alyssa Reinkemeyer had the remaining hit for Blair Oaks, a one-out double to right-center field.

Tori Schulte, Addi Carr, Kempker and Jordyn Haney each had a single for Eugene.

Blair Oaks (3-3) returns to action Tuesday at Capital City.

“It hasn’t been a terrible start, but there are just still quite a few things that we need to do a better job at,” Buschjost said.

Eugene (1-3), which returns seven starters from last year’s Final Four team, plays today at Belle, looking to snap a three-game losing skid.

“I’m real pleased with the girls’ efforts,” Truman said.