Apr. 7—POTTSVILLE — Jersey Cook has batted leadoff before, a few times in travel ball, but not a lot, she said.
Cook, though, looked like the perfect table-setter, sparking Pottsville to a come-from-behind, 13-3 Schuylkill League Division I victory over Lehighton on Tuesday at the CACL Complex. She stepped into the No. 1 spot in the batting order because starting shortstop and usual leadoff hitter Victoria Fuss was out of the lineup with an injury.
“Just get the ball in play and start scoring,” Cook said of her mindset stepping up to the plate.
Cook did that all afternoon.
But not until Lehighton (0-2, 0-1 D-I) threw an early scare into the Crimson Tide (2-2, 1-0). Two errors and Mallory Valentine’s RBI double helped the Indians jump out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Cook wasted no time getting Pottsville back in the game. She worked a leadoff walk in a seven-pitch at-bat, moved up when Sara Meade walked and came around to score on two passed balls. Winning pitcher Taylor Welsh knocked in Meade with a groundout to pull the Tide within 3-2 after one eventful inning.
That was it for the Lehighton offense as Welsh allowed just two hits and no runs the rest of the way. She finished with eight strikeouts and one walk. All of the runs she allowed were unearned. A slick double-play turn by shortstop Alex Blum retired the Indians in the fourth when the outcome was still in doubt.
Cook, who finished 2-for-3 with three runs scored, three stolen bases and two RBIs, delivered the turning point of the game on a ball that traveled about 20 feet.
With Pottsville still trailing by a run, Cook led off the Pottsville third with a perfect bunt single down the first-base line. She stole second and third and scored on Welsh’s RBI double to right-center.
“It got everyone ready to go,” Cook said about that trip around the bases.
Mia Bowers drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, and Kyrsten Milot’s safety-squeeze bunt plated another. By the time the inning ended, Pottsville had batted around and scored five times to take a 7-3 lead.
A leadoff walk and stolen base by Cook started the fourth. Bowers, who went 2-for-3, roped an RBI single to center to drive in Cook and add to the lead.
In the sixth, the Tide delivered the knockout punches as Kiersten Schmitt looped a two-run double to right, and Cook clubbed a two-run single to center to end the game by the 10-run rule.
“The kids are working hard,” Pottsville coach Chuck Rinaldo said. “Kudos to them to being able, after making some mistakes, going down 3-0, we came back and fought back. Our kids are resilient; they really are.”
Pottsville learned a lot about itself by starting the season with three games against big schools from the Berks League: Wilson, Governor Mifflin and state power Daniel Boone. Those three teams entered the day a combined 8-2.
“We played three tough non-league games back-to-back-to-back,” Rinaldo said. “I think it was a good learning experience for them. We tried to preach how the little things are so important — fundamentals.
The Tide are still a work in progress as they overcome injuries and inexperience. Losing last season due to COVID-19 has put many teams behind schedule — Pottsville included, Rinaldo said.
To combat that, Pottsville is using a lot of players — 18 against Daniel Boone and 14 against Lehighton — to find out who is ready to contribute at the varsity level.
“They are all competing for some spots and playing time,” Rinaldo said. “They’re a great bunch of kids. They’re a pleasure to be around, but now we have to start separating and finding some pieces to the puzzle. That we’re still trying to do.”
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