Area champs: Lady Patriots ride strength of defense, powerful bats to playoffs
Published 3:00 am Thursday, April 7, 2016
The Pike Lady Patriots secured the area championship on Tuesday when they swept Monroe Academy 5-0 and 8-3 in a double-header.
The win automatically qualifies the Patriots for the AISA Class AAA playoffs.
“This is very important because it gives us a bid to state,” said Patriots head coach Robert Rollan. “This is a boost to our confidence. We are playing really good ball. We are playing good defense and hitting the ball really well right now.”
The first-year head coach knew his team was capable of playing at a high level; it was just a question of when.
“We knew that if we kept going and working hard until spring break and after, good things were going to happen,” Rollan said.
The Patriots (21-15, 9-0 in the area) have won seven in a row and 11 of their last 13 ballgames. Rollan credits the success in large part to the ability to play sound defense.
“When I first got here we were satisfied with being average on defense and relying on our offense to outscore our opponent,” Rollan said. “That is the opposite of what I believe in.”
Now the Patriots know the importance of making the routine plays.
“We have steadily gotten better on making outs and limiting the number of errors we are making,” Rollan said.
The beneficiary of a strong defense is always the pitching staff. During the Patriots’ seven-game winning streak, pitchers Bailey Rushing, Samantha Yarbrough and Amanda Finlayson have thrived. Bailey’s injury at the beginning of the season gave the other two pitchers the opportunity to get some innings under their belt and make an impact. Now with Bailey the rotation, the Patriots field a deep pitching staff.
“Bailey coming back (after an injury) and being able to throw has taken a lot of pressure off the other two,” Rollan said. “We are a lot more balanced pitching staff.”
The Patriots also have a formidable trio in the middle of their lineup with Yarbrough, Rushing and Danielle Brown. Yarbrough, with 14 homeruns on the season, has the ability to hit the ball out of the park on any given pitch, while the others are a consistent threat to drive in runs.
“If we get somebody on, Sam has the ability to score some runs,” Rollan said. “I didn’t realize how good of a hitter Bailey was at the four spot. Having them at 4-5-6 backing each other and driving runs in makes it hard for people to pitch around them.”
The Patriots will continue to work on their defense, starting pitching and their offense in hopes of advancing deep into the playoffs.
“We have to keep playing,” Rollan said. “We still have to sharpen things up defensively. I talked to them yesterday we have to keep working. We are almost there. We have to stay hungry.”
The Patriots travel to Hooper Academy today to face the Colts. First pitch is 3:30 p.m.