by Beau Wicker
ROYAL CENTER —
There was quite a pitcher’s duel at Herk Hoffman Field on Tuesday.
An unearned run in the first inning turned out to be the difference in the game.
Class A No. 9 Frontier recorded a 1-0 win at No. 5 Pioneer in a matchup of two Midwest Conference powerhouses.
Frontier (12-7, 3-0) is now in the driver’s seat in the MWC standings, while Pioneer dropped to 16-5 and 4-1.
The Panthers didn’t have an answer on this night for Frontier senior left-hander Madison Hurst. The move-in from Western baffled the Panthers in firing a one-hit shutout, striking out 14.
“You don’t have to worry about coaching when that happens,” Pioneer coach John Bingaman said.
All the Panthers could muster up was two first-inning walks and a one-out infield single by Katie Bingaman in the bottom of the seventh. Hurst struck out the side in the first three innings and retired the final two batters of the game via strikeout.
“I can understand the first time through,” John Bingaman said. “We go from different type of pitching. We go from slow pitching to fast pitching. After the first time through you’ve got to do a better job with adjustments.
“We haven’t been shut down like that all year. And we’ve seen some lefty pitchers. We’ve seen the [Josie] Wood girl from North Miami who throws hard, we’ve seen the Summer Sutton girl from Delphi who throws hard. But one thing she did, the toughest pitch to hit in softball is the low outside corner pitch, and with her ball tailing a little bit the first three innings we had real difficulties with that.”
Betsy Bingaman had a gutsy performance on the mound for the Panthers. She may have not have been as sharp on this night as Hurst, but the senior right-hander battled. She allowed just the one run (none earned) on six hits and two walks in seven innings, striking out two. She stranded nine Falcons on base in the game.
Former Panther standout Kattie Lee doubled for the Falcons to lead off the game. She then took third on a costly error as the Panthers struggled getting the ball back into the infield.
“That was critical, just an error on the cutoff,” John Bingaman said.
Brynleigh Jensen followed with a sacrifice fly to center that easily scored Lee, who collected two of the Falcons’ six hits in the contest.
“She’s a spark plug for their team. She sets the tone for their offense,” John Bingaman said. “With her athletic ability and her speed, she gets on base, it’s hard for her not to score with her ability. They get somebody on base, they’re going to execute and bunt because they know the game is going to be close.”
The lone hit of the game against Hurst was a swinging bunt by Katie Bingaman down the third-base line that started foul before spinning just inside the chalk where it stopped for a single.
Pioneer and Frontier certainly hope to meet again this season. That would mean they’d be squaring off in semistate play on June 1.
As for Tuesday’s game, the Pioneer coach didn’t want to use fatigue as an excuse for some of his squad’s hitting and defensive woes on the night, but he did mention, “Unfortunately we played a doubleheader Wednesday, we played Thursday, we played Friday, we played three games Saturday, we played Monday.”
Pioneer next hosts West Central on Thursday.