Branson High School senior Cat Ford went into Tuesday afternoon’s season opener against Weaubleau with not much of a scouting report in mind.
She didn’t even know how to pronounce the name of the Lady Pirates’ opponent.
Considering how the game turned out, Branson coach Josh McKee may want to keep his pitcher and top hitter in the dark about all the rest of the games on the schedule.
Ford went 4-for-4 with three doubles, two RBIs and worked five strong innings in the circle, leading Branson to a 6-1 victory.
“Every game, if there was a way I could go in and not know who we were going to play, I would pick that,” Ford said. “I feel like, as a pitcher or any player, you’re playing against the ball, not against a team. It doesn’t matter how good they are or how bad they are, it’s based on your sole productivity.”
Ford yielded only a single unearned run in the fourth inning, gave up three hits total and struck out eight.
She handed the ball off for the final two innings to Peyton Bonsey, who gave up a single to the first hitter she faced in the sixth, then retired the final six hitters.
“As a pitcher, I don’t care who I’m facing in the batter’s box,” Ford said. “It’s can I get this strike where I need it to be? Can I make this ball do what I want it to do? That’s what I think prevailed today.”
Ford was a force at the plate, following up a junior season when she hit .495 with 45 hits and 18 RBIs.
She came up in the first and doubled into left field, driving in freshman Sierra Dailey, who led off the Branson first with a single. Courtesy runner Leanne Glenn scored on a Weaubleau error.
Ford added a two-out double in the second, and Savannah Miller drove in two runs with a triple to deep right field.
Ford doubled again in the fourth inning with one out, then drove in Branson’s final run with a seventh-inning single.
Langley Miller walked with one out in the fifth, went to second base on a passed ball and scored on a Bonsey single.
Ford’s final hit drove in Chloe Grimm, who is out for softball for the first time since the third grade.
In Grimm’s first varsity at-bat, she laced a line-drive to left-center field and never hesitated at first base, easily beating out the throw for a double.
Grimm, a sophomore, was part of a young starting lineup for the Lady Pirates.
Ford and Savannah Miller are seniors, and the other eight players in the starting lineup are either freshmen or sophomores.
“That’s as young as you can get,” McKee said. “They seemed to handle the situation pretty well. … They have done everything we’ve asked, and they’re ready to play.
“Sometimes it’s better to have young kids, because they don’t know what to expect. I think everybody through the lineup, freshmen through seniors, they’ve all been around the block and they know who to look out for.”
Overall, it was a strong first outing for the Lady Pirates. Branson had at least one hit in all six innings it came to the plate, finishing with nine, played a fairly clean game with three errors, and was in control throughout.
The young players contributed, with the freshmen Dailey finishing with one hit and one run scored and Aly Dicken adding a double, and sophomores Bonsey and Grimm each rapping out a double.
“I liked our intensity today and I thought we played a pretty clean ballgame,” McKee said. “The effort was there, they are a pretty fun group to watch and play with a lot of intensity.
“If we keep that going throughout the season, we can have some pretty good success.”
The tests figure to get tougher from here on out for the Lady Pirates.
After a home game against Logan-Rogersville, Branson will play two games on Saturday, hosting Springfield Glendale at noon and Springfield Hillcrest at 2 p.m.