One team has East Union’s number, at least when it comes to the playoffs in slow pitch.
After winning its first round series at South Delta on Tuesday, the Lady Urchins will host Hamilton on Saturday, making it three years in a row they have matched up with the Lady Lions.
“Hamilton goes way back,” EU coach Josh Blythe said. “I like to tell stories to my kids to encourage them, and this reminds me of the movie ‘Facing the Giants.’ You’ve got those kids who you’ve never beaten, and any kind of motivation you can give those kids, I try to do that, giving them stories they can relate to, like David and Goliath.”
Blythe’s strategy for the opening round of the playoffs was a team trip to see the movie “Courageous.” From that, he saw his lone senior in Rachel Elder step up in a leadership role throughout Tuesday’s games.
“I like doing stuff like that, making them a family, and I think it woke them up,” Blythe said. “Rachel was really great leading the girls. No matter what was going on, she was encouraging those kids, and that’s something I haven’t seen a lot of from her, and I’ve talked with her about that.”
Elder had four hits on the day, three doubles and a triple, as the Lady Urchins defeated South Delta, 14-4 and 23-8. Blythe was impressed with his team’s hitting, but the defensive effort left a lot to be desired.
“For one, it was a hostile environment. That place was jumping, very good sportsmanship, but it’s an environment that my kids have never experienced,” Blythe said. “There were two or three extremely good athletes for them, and we did not play our best, at all. Probably had a lot to do with the four hour ride down there, but despite all of that and some questionable calls, they never got down.”
Ashley Leach led East Union with three hits, and Mallory Roberts, Elder and Callie Frazier each had two hits in the game one win.
Another quartet of Lady Urchins had multiple hits in the second game, Brittany Prewett, Leach, Elder and Alie Haynie, and Blythe said the focus will turn to defense in practice as East Union now prepares for Hamilton.
“Our defense has been shaky, and it’s a bad time to get like that,” he said. “We’ve been hitting for a while now, and that’s what’s kept us in ball games, but if we can get our defense to where it was at a few weeks ago, that’s going to be my focus.”
As far as his motivational strategy, Blythe has yet to come up with his next tactic to inspire his team, but one thing is for certain, the focus is on advancing to the North Half Championship, not on playing Hamilton.
“Our goal is to win north half and go to state, and it’s my job to get them to buy into the fact that we don’t need to focus on just Hamilton; just play our ball and hit the ball well, play defense and don’t give them anything,” he said. “We can’t just focus on Hamilton, let’s focus on what we want overall and not on who we’re playing. If we can do that, I think we’ll be alright.”
“We’re not playing Hamilton, we’re playing for a chance to play for a North Half Championship.”