California Lady Pintos softball played their first conference game of the season on Sept. 5 in Eldon, marking the 200th career victory for California head coach Ashley Anderson.
Sophomore pitcher Peyton Dunham started her fourth game of the season and struck out 14 batters to propel California to a 9-2 victory.
In the top of the first, the Lady Pintos had runners on first and second with one out. First baseman Kylee Wright came up to the plate and hit a ground ball to first base, which could've turned into a double play to end the inning. However, an error by the Eldon infield made Wright safe at first and loaded the bases. California's next batter, shortstop Ryleigh Roellig, walked on four straight pitches to give California a 1-0 lead.
Dunham and the Lady Pintos defense kept their one-run lead until the top of the third inning. California once again had runners on first and second bases with one out. Roellig was again at the plate and hit a 1-1 pitch for a single to center field. Another error by the Lady Mustangs allowed both runners to reach home. Two batters later, center fielder Baylee Wood drove in another run on a sacrifice fly to left field to score Roellig from third base. California now led 4-0.
In the bottom of the third, Dunham retired the first two batters but allowed back-to-back walks. Eldon's next batter, catcher Rylan Stark, hit a 1-1 pitch as a fly ball to left field. The left fielder was unable to make the catch, allowing two runs to score and cut the California lead in half. However, Dunham struck out the side in the fourth inning to maintain California's 4-2 lead.
The Lady Pintos hit the ground running in the fifth inning with back-to-back doubles by Roellig and Emily Burger to score. Burger gained another run on a groundout RBI by left fielder Destiny Needy. California added three more runs in the last two innings. Dunham retired the side in the seventh to give California a 9-2 win and improve their record to 3-1.
For California, pitcher Peyton Dunham pitched seven innings and allowed two runs on two hits with 14 strikeouts and three walks on 103 total pitches. Dunham also batted 2-3 with two runs scored and an RBI. Shortstop Ryleigh Roellig batted 2-3 with two runs scored and two RBIs. Third baseman Emily Burger batted 2-3 with a run scored and an RBI. Center fielder Bayley Wood batted 1-3 with a run scored and an RBI.
For Eldon, pitcher Mckenzi Ward pitched seven innings and allowed nine runs on ten hits with seven strikeouts and five walks. Left fielder Hannan Beanland batted 1-4 and right fielder Kenadee Leslie batted 1-3. Shortstop Madeline Oltmann and center fielder Mallory Witt each scored a run.
Dunham has now thrown 35 strikeouts over California's last three games and is averaging ten strikeouts per game. Coach Ashley Anderson said that Dunham is a stand-out pitcher not just because of her strikeout ratio, but also her pitch targeting and her workmanship with catcher Addie Clay.
"She's hitting location spots now, which is nice. We're expanding now, so she's moving the ball in and out, high and low and she's working the zone," Anderson said. "It does not go without Addie Clay behind the plate. They're a pair. So with them being a pair, they have to work together and when they throw strikes and we get ahead, it allows us to throw different pitches, which allows different movement."
The win over Eldon marked California's first win over a conference opponent this season. One of Anderson's goals is to always compete for a conference championship and the victory on Sept. 5 was the first step in the right direction towards that goal.
"It's huge because we want to get conference wins. You always want to get a win, but a conference win is even better because you're fighting for that conference championship towards the end of the season...," Anderson said.
After the win over Eldon, California played fives games between Thursday and Saturday as a part of the Lake of Ozarks Tournament, six games in total throughout the week. The Lady Pintos won two of the games against Carl Junction and Lees Summit. Their record is now 5-5.
The Lady Pintos next game will be at 5 p.m., Thursday, at Southern Boone.