WHEELING - There was a big difference between the softball teams from Oak Glen and Linsly on Saturday afternoon at Holloway Field.
That difference was the fact coach Morgan Martin's debuting Golden Bears looked like a team in midseason form, especially in the circle and the field, while Amanda Smith's Cadets played like it was the beginning of the season, which it actually is.
Hannah Clunk spun a two-hitter, fanning 15 and walking two, while Emily Phillips capped a four-run, fifth-inning rally with a two-run single as Oak Glen made Linsly pay for some fielding miscues during its 6-0 victory in the first game of a doubleheader.
The Bears wasted an early opportunity, leaving a pair in scoring position in the top of the first, before getting the only run they needed in the third. Erin Fields led off with a single and advanced to third on a throwing error before scoring one out later on Mykelti McGaffie's fielder's choice.
Oak Glen loaded the bases with no one out in the fourth, but scored only once on Fields' two-out, run-scoring single to second that made it 2-0.
The real damage came in the fifth when the Golden Bears again filled the sacks, this time with one out, but pushed across four runs. The first came on an bases-loaded walk to Makayla Crane, with the second crossing the dish on a wild pitch.
Phililps then provided the final nail with a two-run single to left that pushed the count to 6-0.
"These girls have worked very hard on improving and it is real nice to see all the offseason stuff pay off a little bit," Martin said with a smile. "You never really know how it is going to translate from the gym to the field, but I am real excited and relieved right now.
"We have had some live pitching, but it is not the same as a game, so the hitting may take a little while to come around like we want. But I know we have a lineup full of girls that can put the ball in play. I also belive we will continue to develop throughout the season."
Martin was also very happy with Clunk's performance and excited about her pitching staff.
"Hannah has good control and moves the ball around well," the coach added. "And we also have a very good catcher which helps. Overall we have a solid pitching staff and some girls that know how to play the game."
While Fields, the Bears' No. 9 hitter, collected a pair of singles and an RBI, Logan Andrews also singled twice for the winners. Linsly's only two hits were a Katie Smith single in the fourth and a Hope Ruza's base hit in the seventh.
"We need to continue to work on our hitting, but in our opener against Weirton Madonna we actually out-hit them 8-5," Smith said. "But we have been a young team and we are still a pretty young team and there is plenty of time for things to come together.
"Last year we had a roster of 11, this year we have 19, which says a lot in itself. The numbers are on our side now and that isn't going to hurt us anymore.
"I look at our team and I believe we are very solid. There is nowhere in the field that I look at and get nervous, these girls prepare very well. Our main goal as a team is to continue to improve."