LONGMONT — The Silver Creek softball team has so often produced first-inning runs this season that head coach Ryan Beavers complimented seven-hole hitter and senior Lee-Ann Kuckuk as the perfect "second leadoff" in the Raptors lineup.
While Kuckuk's lead single in the bottom of the second inning Tuesday against Longmont seemed pretty innocent, it parlayed into big things for herself and her teammates in a 16-1, run-rule shortened win against their Northern League rivals.
A close game at just 2-1 when she stepped up to the plate, Kuckuk later scored one of five runs in the second frame of the contest, and she would end up with a double and home run in the third inning, too, as the Raptors continued to put bat to ball and improve to 11-2 on the season.
Longmont's Ashley Dillow contributed a home run to give the Trojans (6-2-1) some confidence, but pitcher Jetta Nannen was overall in great form with just that one hit allowed, one walk and nine strikeouts. Nannen also hit two home runs and drove in five to continue her torrid hitting pace.
"It was a great outing all around ... and if a couple of baserunning things is my biggest complaint, we're doing good," said Beavers after the game, which came off the heels of a 3-1 Erie Festival of Champions record. "After this weekend and how pleased I was with it, there's just not much more to say because they are doing everything we're asking them to do right now."
"We just wanted to be as confident as we could going into this game, and just wanted to have fun, as usual," Kuckuk added.
Silver Creek has been able to put up a lot of runs against a lot of teams as early as the first trip through the lineup. Longmont's Angeline Mitchell, whose changeup is exceptional, managed to get through the first inning with just one real mistake — Nannen's sixth home run of the season, on a 3-2 pitch, to make it 2-0.
After Dillow homered to cut the deficit to 2-1, Mitchell nearly escaped the second inning without much harm done, too. But with two outs and just one run in, Mitchell hit Makayla Garcia with an inside pitch to bring up Nannen again, and a first-pitch connection sailed over the center-field wall to make it 6-1.
Longmont started to press on defense after that, and Silver Creek took advantage by sending 12 batters to the plate in the third. Kuckuk delivered the two hardest-hit balls of the inning, a double down the third-base line followed up by a fly ball that just escaped the left field wall to provide the final runs.
With her performance, Kuckuk's season batting average went up by nearly 80 points, from .292 to .370.
"We couldn't see that ball coming from behind (Mitchell's) back at first, but Jetta came and helped as out to recognize that," Kuckuk said. "Her changeup was really good, and for us it was making sure to handle that first-pitch strike."
"(Mitchell) will only get stronger because of this game," Longmont head coach Kelsey Walters said, seeing her senior pitcher strike out three batters. "We were confident coming in and we were definitely confident with (the score 2-1), but some things just didn't go our way after that."
The Trojans will look to get back in the win column Thursday against Thompson Valley while Silver Creek also plays Thursday at Greeley Central.
Silver Creek 16, Longmont 1
At Silver Creek HS
Longmont010 0 — 1 1 2
Silver Creek259 x — 16 10 0
W — Nannen. L — Mitchell.
Longmont hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Gumeson 2-0-0-0, Bustamante 2-0-0-0, Sabol 2-0-0-0, Mitchell 1-0-0-0, A. Dillow 2-1-1-1, Alaniz 1-0-0-0, Simmons 1-0-0-0, Morrow 1-0-0-0, Kierstein 1-0-0-0. Totals 13-1-1-1.
Silver Creek hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Harper 2-2-1-2, Garcia 1-1-0-0, Gaccetta 1-1-0-0, Nannen 2-3-2-5, Kuehl 3-1-1-0, Scott 2-1-1-1, Wager 3-1-1-2, Kuckuk 3-3-3-2, Fisher 2-1-0-0, Beavers 2-2-1-1. Totals 21-16-10-13.
Longmont pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Mitchell 3-10-16-8-3-3.
Silver Creek pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Nannen 4-1-1-1-1-9.