PANAMA - At their most basic, pitchers fall into one of two categories: those that pitch to avoid contact (i.e., attempt to strike out every batter they face) and those that pitch to contact (or, more specifically, the right kind of contact).
Right-handed hurler Lauren Cummings is the latter, and that suits the Chautauqua Lake Lady Thunderbirds just fine.
Cummings, coming off a pair of outings on Saturday in which she tossed a combined six innings and allowed a mere three hits, was in top form yet again on Tuesday afternoon, scattering four hits, fanning three and walking just one batter over seven innings to lead Chautauqua Lake past Division 3 foe Panama, 8-1, for its third straight victory.
Chautauqua Lake pitcher Lauren Cummings shows her winning form in a Division 3 softball game against Panama on Tuesday. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Rob Tucker
The senior, who recorded 12 flyball outs, faced just five batters over the minimum.
"She's been really stepping it up," Chautauqua Lake coach Sue Teets said after the victory, which improved the Lady Thunderbirds to 4-2 overall and 2-2 in league. "She's really smart in what she's throwing. She thinks carefully (before each pitch) and she knows where to put the ball."
That much was clear on what was a breezy Tuesday as the young Panama hitters struggled to make solid contact and instead had to settle for glancing blows off either the end of the bat or the handle, resulting, oftentimes, in a pop-fly foul out.
That, combined with a solid defense behind Cummings that plays all the more confident - the squad committed only one error - with their senior ace on the mound, and the Lady Panthers (2-5, 1-4) never really threatened.
"You can always tell when a pitcher comes out and the team has confidence in her," Teets continued, "because they play like it. (Lauren) knows the game, and she shut them down (today)."
Cummings' lone blemish came in the bottom of the seventh inning when Francine Torres hit a single and then moved to second on the play following an error. A hit by Haley King later, and Torres came around to score, denying Cummings the shutout.
"I wanted that shutout," Teets said with a laugh.
Guess she'll have to settle for the win instead.
The Lady Thunderbirds came out swinging against Panama starter Carly Abbate, who took the loss after allowing eight runs (six of which were earned) on eight hits over seven innings, as the visiting squad plated two runs in the first inning and then four in the second to take a commanding 6-0 lead early.
They would extend that advantage to 8-0 in the top of the seventh after taking advantage of a pair of Panama errors (the Lady Panthers committed five in all).
"I always say, 'Quick start out of the gates, quick start out of the gates,'" Teets said, "because that confidence follows them the rest of the game. The bats have really been coming alive the last few games, and they're seeing that they can hit the ball."
Courtney Hewes led the way with a pair of hits and two RBIs (which started the scoring in the first). Luci Sena drove in two runs; Jade Walsh chipped in with two hits, including a double, and an RBI; Ashley Moulton added a hit and an RBI; and, most pleasing to Teets, Gina Sena drove in a run and connected for a double down the right field line.
"Gina (has been struggling a bit) and I almost pinch hit for her," Teets said. "But I said, 'Let's give her another try.'
"And I'm thanking the Lord I did because that (double) was awesome. I was really happy with her play."
Panama - which got a triple from Brittany Lenart and singles from Kirsten Green, Torres and King - is back in action on Thursday at Maple Grove. Chautauqua Lake, meanwhile, will be on the diamond for the next four days in a row, starting at Pine Valley today at 4:30 p.m.