Up until Friday night, the Venice Indians softball team had relied on strong pitching and defense to win one of its first three games.
Unfortunately for the Sarasota Sailors, Venice added hitting to the mix to pick up its second win of the year by defeating its non-district opponent, 8-5, at Sarasota High School. While Venice had solid offensive production up-and-down its lineup, Kayleigh Roper emerged as the big star with a pair of home runs and four RBIs. In all, Venice banged out 13 hits and earned a pair of walks.
Meanwhile, Becka Mellor and Micaela Hartman handled the Sailors from the mound. Mellor started and picked up the win while Hartman doused a big Sarasota rally in the sixth.
“On that field tonight we had two seniors with a lot of freshmen and sophomores,” said Indians head coach Steve Constantino. “What poise they showed in difficult situations. What a job they did.”
The Indians set the tone in the opening half inning as they plated five runs. The big blow was the first of Roper’s round trippers – a three-run shot over the right-center field fence. Scoring ahead of Roper were Antonia Rosa, who singled, and Tatum McGrath, who walked.
“The first at-bat, I knew she was throwing outside so I was sitting on that pitch,” said Roper. “On the second one, I moved up in the box. I was expecting her to go inside since I hit the first one on an outside pitch. It was about where I was expecting it.”
Cleanup hitter Kay Holland kept the rally going in the first inning by following Roper’s blow with a single. Add a walk by Hartman and a two RBI single by Mellor and the Indians had a 5-0 lead.
Back-to-back run scoring hits by Juliana Ortiz and Rosa added two more runs for Venice in the fifth inning. The Indians’ final run came as a result of Roper’s second homer. This time, she pulled the ball to left-center.
In addition to the Roper homers, Sophia Cordero was responsible for the Indians’ only other extra-base hit. She lined a double in the fifth and scored on the Ortiz hit. Cordero also singled in the third.
“My approach has really changed, because I wasn’t just thinking, ‘Hit, hit,’” Cordero said. “I’ve been working on my step. On the double, I didn’t use all my power. But I still made good contact.”
Though Venice was never behind in the game, a late rally by Sarasota was thwarted by outstanding defense. Hartman came on in relief in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and no outs. She helped minimize the damage when she began a 1-2-3 double play on a ball hit back to the mound.
“That’s a freshman there making a really heads-up play in a tough situation,” said Constantino.
The Sailors scored two runs in the first inning. They added single runs in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings.
The Indians will remain on the road for its next contest on Tuesday. They will take on Lemon Bay in a 6 p.m. start.