Quaker Valley takes down Blackhawk in Section 3-4A

Thursday, April 18, 2019 | 12:20 AM

Growing pains.

Tough words to live by as a high school coach, but for Blackhawk’s Jim Riggio, it’s a statement he hopes can take to heart after suffering a 17-2 loss to Quaker Valley in Section 3-4A softball action Wednesday. The game was called after four innings because of the mercy rule.

For Riggio, it’s all about finding improvement from one day to the next.

“I like the effort we get,” Riggio said. “Swinging the bat the last couple of games, I like what I’m seeing.”

Pitching played a big factor for the Cougars. Regular starting pitcher Morgan Faller was unable to play because of an ankle injury. Freshman Kristiana Bufalini made her first start, going 2 1/3 innings, surrendering 12 runs on seven hits. Sophomore Ashley Dickton finished the game, her first action in the circle in years. Combined, Bufalini and Dickton combined for eight walks and six hit-batters.

“We’re really in a funk right now.” Riggio said. “It’s all about pitching in high school softball, and when the pitcher struggles, the team is going to struggle.”

After surrendering two runs in the top of the first, Blackhawk responded with two of its own in the bottom half of the frame. Kelsey Stoner led off with a double and scored on a Hannah Mensch single. Mensch scored on an Ally Zernick two-out double.

“I was just looking for something that was a strike,” Zernick said. “That’s about it.”

Quaker Valley (3-4, 2-3), however, exploded for four runs in the second and nine more in the third.

“This team is young, we have a lot to learn, and we are learning as we go,” Quaker Valley second-year coach Nicole Olsen said. “I liked seeing how we were consistent throughout the day, we were aggressive on the baserunning, and it definitely paid off for us.”

Jeana McCracken led the Quakers with four RBIs. Freshman Izzy DeGori went 3 for- 4 with three RBIs.

Paige Campbell had two hits for Blackhawk.

While things were rough for Blackhawk pitchers, the Cougars’ battery-mate spoke highly of those in the circle.

“I think the pitchers especially need a lot of recognition for this game,” Zernick said. “Our starting pitcher was a freshman in her first start … and our second pitcher who came in is a sophomore, and she did really well because she hasn’t pitched a lot. But they did well.”

Much like Quaker Valley, which has no seniors on the team, Blackhawk (1-7, 0-6) also has a young team with only two seniors and two juniors on the roster. It’s a tough stretch for a Blackhawk team coming off a playoff berth a year ago.

“I appreciate the effort,” Riggio said. “I think (the team) is down. I think it’s starting to wear on us, and I think hopefully we’ll get some good effort next week. But I’m not going to lie, it’s hard.”

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