GLENDALE — The Hoover High softball team scored six runs in the first inning of their opener hosting Louisville for a rousing start to the new season, but after that, fielding errors and mental mistakes by the Tornadoes led to an avalanche of runs for the Royals, who won Saturday morning’s nonleague matchup, 19-12.
“Terrible game, absolutely terrible game,” Hoover Coach Rich Henning said. “First-game jitters or whatever you want to call it, but if you can’t field the ball, you are going to lose every time.”
In the top of the first, Hoover (0-1) began the year by committing errors on each of the Royals’ first three at-bats, leading to the game’s first run. Two batters later, a dropped ball on a play at the plate allowed a second run to score. In total, the Tornadoes committed nine errors, with seemingly every one resulting in runs for Louisville (2-1).
“We just dug ourselves a huge hole with all the errors and we just couldn’t fight our way back,” Henning said.
In the bottom of the first, Hoover’s Kaitlyn Williams came to the plate for her first at-bat of the her final season as a Tornado before moving on to play next year on scholarship for Louisiana Tech. She promptly hammered an inside-the-park home run, lining the ball to deep center field and allowing Karina Moreno, who had led off the game by being hit with a pitch, to score. Williams rounded the bases to tie the game at 2, while the Royals labored to get the ball back into the infield.
“It felt good. I wish it was over the fence, but you can’t do everything, made up for the errors,” Williams said.
Two batters later, Hoover took its first lead of the season when Alejandra Villasenor hit a triple that hugged the left field line to drive in Jensey Gonzalez, who had reached base on a walk. Villasenor then scored on a fielder’s choice by beating the throw home, allowing Kelly Crockett to reach. Karen Lopez then hit Hoover’s second triple of the frame to drive Crockett in. Lopez scored the final run of the first inning on a wild pitch and the home team led, 6-2, after one.
“We started off rocky and then we came back offensively really nice,” Henning said of the first inning, “but, the thing of it is, we didn’t sustain it.”
Louisville used five hits to put up six runs of its own in the second. Hoover continued to hemorrhage runs throughout the rest of the game, allowing at least one in every inning but the last. The Royals put the game out of reach in the sixth inning by getting six hits and scoring seven runs, the final three of which came directly as the result of two Hoover fielding errors, for a 19-8 advantage.
The Tornadoes did respond in the bottom of the sixth with four runs of their own. All four came with one out, the bases full and Williams at the plate. She clobbered a 1-0 offering deep into left-center field, crediting her with a double and three runs driven in, and came around to score on a Royal outfield error. That proved to be the final run of the contest, as neither team scored in the seventh for the first scoreless inning of the game. Williams finished three of four with five RBIs and was a triple short of the cycle.
“Louisville showed up to play,” Henning said. “We started to play and then we just lost our focus.”
Hoover is also fighting injury issues and was down to nine players by the end of the game, including Gonzalez at catcher, who got dinged up in the third inning and was replaced behind the plate by Crockett.
“We are down to nine,” Henning said, “and our first-string catcher split her thumb open. She [went to] right field, she couldn’t even throw a ball, but, you know, she’s a gamer. She wants to play. She came out and played. She knows we are down to nine. If she goes home we stop.”
Hoover plays next on Thursday as host to Holy Family.