Perched behind home plate, Sydney Dishman watched as Anna Leigh Mitchell did her usual routine.
Step on the pitching rubber. Slightly twist. Deliver the pitch.
And consistently get batters out.
Mitchell gave Austin High five shutout innings of relief, striking out four while giving up one hit to get the pitching win as the Black Bears topped River City rival Decatur 9-5 on Tuesday afternoon.
“(Mitchell) came in and pitched well,” said Dishman, Austin’s veteran catcher. “But that’s what we expect from her. She’s a good pitcher.”
Facing a one-run deficit, Mitchell entered the game in the third inning and quickly calmed what appeared to be a potential upset from a Decatur team that starts several eighth-graders and freshmen.
Decatur (5-8) rallied for five runs on five hits in the top of the second inning. Ashley Bailey drove in two runs to give the Red Raiders a 2-1 lead, and Makayla Hayes followed with a three-run homer deep over the center-field fence.
That lead didn’t last long.
Austin (6-2-1) rallied for three runs in the bottom of the second on a pair of RBI singles from Aleah Garth and Dishman, and the Black Bears poured it on in the third, scoring five runs on three hits.
Laken Page finished 2-for-3 with an RBI to lead Austin at the plate, while Mallory Malone, Dishman and Garth each had an RBI single.
Mitchell made the lead stand up, retiring 14 of 18 hitters she faced.
“It’s still early, so we’ve still got a long way to go,” Austin coach Bruce Hamilton said. “There are still a lot of areas where we need to improve, but there were some signs today that we’re headed in the right direction.”
Last season, Austin took a step toward becoming a softball program capable of competing for state tournament appearances. The Black Bears were one of the area’s top teams, advancing to the winner’s bracket final of the Class 6A North Regional before losing to Bob Jones and Sparkman.
With a strong nucleus of returning players, coupled with some talented underclassmen, Austin enters the meat of its schedule with expectations to build on the foundation established by the 2012 team.
“We lost three seniors, but with the players we have back, the feeling around here is that we can be as good, if not better, than last year’s team,” said Dishman, a five-year starter. “I feel like we have a good team. It’s just a matter of us staying at it and always giving it our best. If we do that, I think we can take the next step.”
“The pieces are in place,” he said. “It’s just a matter of us continuing to get better. Right now, we’re not where we need to be, but we weren’t where we needed to be at this time last year.
“But it’s a long season, and the important thing is that our players keep working hard to become the type of team I feel like they can be. Like tonight, we made some nice plays — some game-changing plays. And when we got down, the players stayed focused and came back. All of those are things that we can build on.”
Contact Justin Graves at 256-340-2460 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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