PARK HILLS – The Farmington softball team lost one player to graduation over the summer, but entered this season needing to establish a new ace pitcher and replenish some power at the plate.
Junior first baseman Allison Pingel belted a solo home run in the sixth inning, and senior Hannah Hight threw a shutout on Thursday as the Knights defeated previously unbeaten Central 1-0.
The victory avenged a 6-2 setback at last month’s Union Tournament, and handed the Lady Rebels their first setback this fall. Both clubs began the afternoon 3-0 in MAAA conference play.
Defense shined in a contest that saw each side make solid contact at the plate but fail to string multiple hits together. The lone error during the action carried no consequence.
Central hurler Kylie House quickly retired the first two batters of the sixth inning on ground balls, but Pingel drove a 1-0 pitch over the right-center fence for her second home run of the season.
“I just knew it was my chance to get my team on the board. I was hoping to start a rally and keep things going from there,” Pingel said. “I struggled in my first two at-bats, and realized that her first or second pitch was always there. After the first one missed, I was ready and saw an opportunity. I wanted a base hit and it turned out to be more.”
Pingel is among three Farmington players to homer throughout the first eight games, and became the Knights’ No. 3 batter upon the departure of all-state performer Kaila Nash.
“She hits the ball on a line and hits it hard. You don’t see her get under the ball or have a lackadaisical swing very often,” Farmington coach Lindsey Albee said.
Hight matched her counterpart in the circle with five hits allowed, and fielded a slow tapper to complete the shutout for Farmington (7-1) with the potential tying run at second base.
Caitlyn Holmes finished 2-for-3 with two doubles for Central (7-1), which overcame its slumping offense in previous contests. But a leadoff double by freshman Kimmy Wallen was wasted in the first inning.
Holmes stole third base with two outs after plugging the left-center gap in the fifth, but was stranded following a backhand stop by sophomore shortstop Alyson Tucker.
The momentum then swung fully to the revenge-minded visitors when Pingel went deep.
“I think it definitely gave the girls some relief as far as being nervous and just wanting to get on top,” Albee said. “Even if you’re trailing, once you get on the board it just becomes easier to relax.”
Tucker was perfect and even stellar on seven defensive chances. She recovered a booted ball and turned a huge double play when the Lady Rebels threatened in the bottom of the sixth.
Pingel saved a low throw earlier in the frame, and right fielder Sophia White made a sliding catch on one knee for the first out of the seventh.
“We work very hard on defense. It’s the No. 1 thing at our practices,” Pingel said. “I think the effort we’ve put in showed today.”
House returned from 11 innings and 135 pitches against Jefferson one day later to throw 104 more in defeat. She worked through a second-inning by delivering one of her four strikeouts.
Randi Scruggs doubled in the Farmington third, but a line drive to shortstop Mady Hart eliminated that threat. A double by Emily Briese proved harmless in the fifth.
Ally Welch and Karissa Belfield added singles for Central. The Knights and Lady Rebels are scheduled for a rematch on Sept. 22.