It's easy to get caught up in the moment and overvalue one game, especially the first game of a season. That being said, the 2019 Cass softball team already looks miles ahead of the Colonels' 2018 version after just seven innings of play.
Granted, Cass still has a ridiculously young group. There will be plenty of highs and lows, and the Colonels went through plenty of them Monday in their season, home and Region 7-AAAAA opener.
Facing a Villa Rica program that reached the Class 5A state tournament in Columbus, Cass fell by an 11-6 final score. Even though they came up on the short end, the Colonels showed heart and resolve in battling back after a demoralizing six-run top of the third by the visitors.
"There's definitely some things we can clean up, but I saw a lot of good things," Cass coach Taylor Weeks said. "The middle of the game, I felt like we had a lot of energy. If we keep building on that, we'll be just fine this season."
The Wildcats (1-2, 1-0) scratched across two runs runs in the top of the first, thanks to an error, a double and a single. The Colonels bounced back with a single tally in the bottom of the first and took the lead with a two-run bottom of the second inning.
Eryn Lee tripled to lead off the first. She came into score on Ansley Height's single. Kylee Hembree and Macenzie Dougharty, who split time in the circle Monday, hit consecutive singles to begin the second. A throwing error on a sacrifice bunt allowed Hembree to score. Courtesy runner Kaila Carson scored on a wild pitch to give the home team the lead.
"I thought we swung pretty well," Weeks said of the offense. "We scored six runs, but we've got to clean up the defense a little bit. Scoring six runs, we can win some games with that. Our bats weren't bad today."
That edge wasn't held for long, though. After a groundout to open the top of the third, Villa Rica's next eight batters reached base. By the time Cass came up to the plate again, it was facing an 8-3 deficit.
Following the third-inning outburst, the Colonels kept their composure. They eventually fought back with a three-run fifth to pull within 8-6.
Lee reached on an error and Height singled. Alexis Woods hit a clutch two-run triple and later scored on a wild pitch. Height and Woods, a pair of freshmen, finished a combined 5-for-8 with two runs scored and three RBIs.
"I think that shows how much heart our girls have," Weeks said. "They're never going to be out of the game. I'm really happy with that."
Hembree, who also had two hits, kept the Wildcats at bay until the top of the seventh, when Villa Rica pushed across three runs to set the final margin. She gave up four hits and three walks. Dougharty allowed six hits and two walks.
"Kylee and Mac have been splitting a lot of games this summer," Weeks said. "I think they do well with that. They build off of each other. Once the lineup sees one girl a few times through, we switch it up. I think that helps us."
There were plenty of chances the Colonels would like to have back. In total, the Wildcats turned four double plays, including one in each of the first three innings. Two of those inning-changing plays came on poor base-running decisions with players being doubled off on lineouts to center.
Outside of those mistakes and a few defensive miscues, Cass played a solid game. The final score flatters Villa Rica, especially since both teams wound up with 10 hits. However, the Wildcats showed the experience needed to make the key plays in big moments.
The Colonels, meanwhile, are still trying to get to that point. With a talented nucleus, it will happen, but there will certainly be plenty more nights full of ups and downs.
Cass will hope to see more of a happy medium Tuesday at Rome.
"They can think about [the loss] for a little bit tonight, and come out [Tuesday] ready to go," Weeks said of message to her players. "It's a new day."