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Gilbert outlasts Jayettes in marathon season opener

Sean Cordy - Correspondent
Macy Kilmer works to tag a Gilbert player on Tuesday, June 16. PHOTO BY SEAN CORDY/THE PERRY CHIEF

It was a hard day’s night.

Starting soon after 7 p.m., the Jayettes’ season opener stretched nearly three hours with a 12-7 slugfest as Gilbert topped Perry.

There were 37 hits total during the Jayettes’ opening night against Gilbert made for a marathon of a game — by some measures, it was a week’s worth of play compared to games last year.

Keeping up with the Tigers

Perry’s typical output in the batters box last season was 4.8 hits per game. The Jayettes jumped on base with 14 hits this time around.

A good chunk came from the first inning with five hits, which were accompanied by three walks to cycle through the order while hanging up six runs in the process.

That was enough to keep things competitive early on as the Tigers also posted six runs out of the gate. Perry’s response was a vital sign of life for the Jayettes. Rather than bury their heads in the sand, they showed enough fight to reclaim the momentum, however fleeting.

“We’ve never done that,” Perry head coach Lutterman said of her team’s comeback inning. “I think that shows a lot of growth and a lot of personal responsibility to be here and just make the effort to try and find a way.”

That was initially paved by Kennedy Tunink getting the first of her two hits on the day to drive in Lydia Olejniczk and Jayna Kenney off a double. Eventually, that snowballed into the first six Jayettes scoring in a row to nullify the momentum the Tigers set.

Tunink was joined by Macy Killmer in the two-hit club, and Olejniczak would also claim a double late in the game.

Working into the zone

After the Tigers were granted six runs in the first inning, Gilbert’s one run per inning average the rest of the night was an accomplishment in comparison as sophomore Jayna Kenney stayed in the circle all night.

“I think the zone was super tight to start the game too, so she had to really work hard to find the right spot,” Lutterman said.

Kenney finished with five K’s, an improvement over her 1.9 strikeouts per start as a sophomore. Her strikeout in the fourth inning was a true prove-it moment.

Plays like a strikeout to close the fourth inning were vital to prevent a case of deja vu later in the game. With the bases loaded, the Tigers were primed to make another big splash but Kenney was able to get Sydney Lynch swinging after she had gotten on base three times before.

Only two more runs came through the next three innings, putting Lutterman’s pitching philosophy to the test.

“My number one thing for pitchers is [to not walk anyone],” Lutterman said. “Let them hit it. If they can put it in play, let the defense work.”

Fine-tuning the field

Just as the pitches were tuned throughout the game, so was the fielding. What started out allowing six runs on three errors in the first inning, turned into a defense that pulled off a triple play in the sixth frame.

That was one thing the team set as a goal for the season, so thanks to Kilmer catching a fly ball and tagging third base with bases loaded, the defense now has to find something else for the checklist once Taylor Atwell finished the play at second base.

Lutterman said it was plays like that which showed the team was moving in the right direction, and was particularly happy to see how often those moments occurred to strand Gilbert runners on base.

Next Up: ADM (Wednesday)

The Tigers opened their season with a 13-6 win over Ballard, looking as dominant as the team that won a combined 21-0 over the Jayettes last year.