The first time Kayla Fredendall stepped onto a softball diamond was as a 5-year-old playing T-ball at Pastime Park in Plain City.
That was a dozen years or so ago, but while things change, they pretty much stay the same too.
Fredendall, a Jonathan Alder High School senior catcher who has signed to play at Appalachian State University, has grown up in the last decade or so. But there she was Saturday, April 15, back hitting rockets off her bat as if she was hitting off of a tee.
The senior standout had four hits including a towering home run which helped propel the Lady Pioneers (6-2) over previously unbeaten West Jefferson by a score of 12-3 in a game played under the lights and in front of hundreds of fans back at Pastime Park.
“I think it was great,” Fredendall said of the environment. “I just love the community involvement, there were a lot of people here tonight. It really helps build up our program. I like setting that example for all the little ones that are here watching.”
Fredendall gave plenty of younger aspiring Pioneers something to aim for. She was nightmare at the plate for the Roughriders (9-1). She singled in her first at-bat but was stranded at second base. She had an RBI single in the second and scored in the frame as Alder built a 4-0 lead.
Perhaps her hardest hit ball of the night was a rocket to right that was snagged just in front of the fence for an out to lead off the fourth inning. She singled to center in the sixth, and then hit a shot to left-center that disappeared into the night sky in the top of the seventh.
“I think we swung really well tonight,” she said. “I think we’ve definitely improved since the beginning of the season. We’re just more aggressive with our pitch selection and just looking for pitches we want to hit.”
Alder had 14 hits in the game off West Jeff starter Isabelle Fisher. With a number of freshmen playing key roles, it appears things are starting to come together for Pioneers coach Dave McGrew and his talented squad.
“We’re starting to hit, more importantly the bottom of the order is starting to hit,” McGrew said. “I think it started with our loss to Central Crossing a couple weeks ago. Kayla was out (Katelyn Perkins) and they have that D-I pitcher who struck out 12 or 13. I think that’s what woke us up. Since then we’ve really worked hard and come along, they have really responded since then.
“We still have things to work on, but we’re coming along.”
The biggest swing in momentum in the game occurred without a single run crossing the plate. After Alder went scoreless in the top of the first, West Jeff put together a rally. Brooke Roberts doubled off the fence in right field and the Lady Roughriders had runners on second and third with only one out.
But Perkins, one of the few veterans on the Alder roster stepped up and got a pair of strikeouts to end the inning. Instead of getting an upper-hand, West Jeff went into the field with the game scoreless. Alder would score four times in the top of the second.
“After that first inning to get out of that, first thing I did was call a huddle, we were a little starstruck,” McGrew said. “I told them ladies we can’t get caught up in all of this, you have to stay in your bubble and play your game.
“No balls in play, she struck two out and that was big. The girls came in with more bounce in their step.”
West Jeff coach Jim Stevens admits that coming away empty handed in that situation changed the complexion of the game.
“It’s part of the game, unfortunately that’s what happens,” the West Jeff coach said. “You expect the meat of your lineup to make things happen and unfortunately it didn’t happen tonight, KP is a great pitcher and was able to get out of it. It took our girls a little time to understand that she was living outside, it took a little longer to make the adjustment. But one thing they didn’t do was they didn’t quit, we could have thrown in the towel but we didn’t.”
As for taking the loss, the coach said he expects his team to bounce back.
“This is a humbling experience, our girls were riding high and this brings us back down,” Stevens said. “They know what happened and they know what we need to work on. It’s humbling for all of us. We’re young, one senior starter with a majority of freshmen and sophomores, but we’ll be fine. It hurts, but hopefully we take this hurt and turn it into a positive.”
Alder’s Rachel Dembek was 2 for 4 with 4 RBI. She had a 2-run double in the second inning and a 2-run single later in the game. Perkins pitched six innings, allowing just one run.
“I think we have a lot of potential left. We’ve already grown so much and we’re only part way through our season,” Fredendall said. “I think we’re going to be really, really good by the end of the year.”
Reach Chris Miles at 740-852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.