In their first year as a Class AAAA program, the Lady Knights (1-0) played great defense, got timely hitting and had a solid outing from starter Heather Williams in taking down the sixth-ranked team in Class AAAAAA.
Katelyn Brack blasted her first career home run — a one-out solo shot over the center field wall — to give River Ridge its first run of the game and knot the score at 1-all.
A leadoff walk to Sara Bennetts in the fourth turned into a RBI for Kiley Rediger after Bennetts stole second and later scored on Rediger’s single through the right side. Hillgrove right fielder Taylor DeCelles one-hopped the throw to home, but Bennetts just beat the tag in her slide at the plate to give the Lady Knights the one-run lead.
Williams, who gave up one earned run on five hits and struck out one in a complete game outing, allowed only one hit over her final four innings — a lead-off double to Abby Akins in the sixth — to preserve the win.
Williams induced 17 groundball outs behind a strong defensive showing from infielders Jessica Baker, Bennetts, Quinley Whitley and Rediger, and Whitley nabbed two liners at second base to help keep the Lady Hawks (0-1) in check.
Rediger batted 1-for-3 with a RBI and Brack was 1-for-3 with a RBI and a run scored. Bennetts was 0-for-2 with a walk, stolen base and scored a run, while Williams batted 1-for-3.
“A little bit here and a little bit there,” River Ridge coach Scott Bradley said. “I thought a key for us going into the season was going to be our hitting, but it was our defense and pitching that really got us through this game. Hillgrove definitely put the ball in play, but we didn’t have any errors in the field and Heather did a great job out there and put our girls in position to make plays.
“Our (No.) four and (No.) five hitters struggled, but I don’t want them to panic. Everybody’s just getting into the swing of things and it’s the first game of the season.
“Hillgrove’s a great program. We struggled at the plate, but got it done.”
Hillgrove took a 1-0 lead in the first when DeCelles singled, moved to third on Akins’ double to left and scored on Kathryn Jackson’s one-out, RBI groundout.
Brack answered with her homer in the top of the second, and the Lady Knights took the lead in the fourth.
Williams allowed a walk in the second and two singles in the third before settling down. The only other time she was threatened was following Akins’ lead-off double in the sixth. However, a ground out to third froze Akins at second and Williams induced two more ground outs to end the inning and prevent Akins from tying the game.
Akins batted 3-for-3 with two doubles and DeCelles was 2-for-3 with a run scored.
Hillgrove starter Abby Evans allowed two earned runs on three hits and struck out 12 in seven innings.
“River Ridge is a good team,” first-year Hillgrove coach Laura Voyles said. “They were a good test for us to give us an idea of what we need to work on. We need better communication and not leave runners on when we get them on base.
“It’s a long season and we have 27 regular season games to go. We’ll the make the adjustments necessary and get better.”