By Josh Brown
PLEASANT HILL — Lexi Long probably hurt her own chances at hitting for the cycle by having such a big day.
But she did wonders helping Covington put away another Cross County Conference victory.
Long finished Thursday’s game at Newton a double shy of the cycle, homering, tripling and driving in three runs in her fist two trips to the plate as the Buccaneers (17-5, 11-0 CCC) run-ruled the Indians 10-0 in five innings.
With the Buccs already up 1-0 after one inning on an RBI single by Morgan McReynolds, Ashley Cecil led off the second with a single and was bunted to second.
As it turned out, the bunt wasn’t necessary, as Long — hitting in the eighth spot in the order — blasted a two-run homer to right-center, making it a 3-0 game.
“She’s got some pop, doesn’t she?” Covington coach Dean Denlinger said.
Unfortunately for the Indians (10-13, 8-4 CCC), so does the rest of the Covington lineup.
Kara Schaffer, Jessica Dammeyer and Haley Adams followed Long’s shot with three straight singles, with Adams driving in another run to chase the Indians’ starting pitcher. Newton recorded the second out of the inning at the plate, but a wild pitch allowed another run to score and McReynolds blooped in another RBI single — and after two innings, Covington led 6-0.
“They just hit the ball well,” Newton coach Kirk Kadel said. “We were way too nervous in this game. We didn’t play very loose or relaxed. And that’s not taking anything away from them — they’re a very good team, and they’re very well coached. They hit well today.”
“The kids seemed to be really focused today,” Denlinger said. “It’s been a long couple of weeks. We’ve played 11 or 12 games in the last 14 days, but the kids played hard today.
“Newton’s a quality team, and he (Kadel) is a quality guy. He’s set the tone in this area for years now. That is a team that’s going to be ready for the tournament.”
The Indians threatened on a number of occasions Thursday, but each time they did, Covington starter Morgan Arbogast did what she had to to get out of it. In the first, Madison Mollette led off with a single and Megan Rutledge singled to put two runners on with one out, but Arbogast got a flyout and a pop to short to end the inning.
In the third, Rose Studebaker led off with a single and Rutledge had a two-out single, but another harmless fly ball to center ended the threat. And in the fourth, Arbogast walked two to start the inning and gave up a bloop single with two outs to load the bases, but she then won a 10-pitch at-bat by finishing it off with a strikeout to end the inning.
“Morgan’s been a workhorse for us all year long,” Denlinger said. “We’ve got a couple of other arms that can go in for us, but she wanted the ball in this situation today. And that was in the meat of their lineup, too, and Newton’s got some power.”
“We’re just not doing the little things right now to make things happen,” Kadel said. “A couple of the girls may be trying a little too hard instead of relaxing and letting the game come to them.”
Covington, meanwhile, kept the heat on. Arianna Richards led off the third with a single and was promptly driven in on an RBI triple by Long, then Long scored on an RBI single by Dammeyer to make it 8-0. The Buccs then got a two-out run in the fourth as Brooke Gostomsky doubled with two outs and Ashley Cecil drove her in. Long singled in the fifth in what would prove to be her last trip to the plate, and Dammeyer drove her in with another RBI single to make it 10-0.
Long finished 3 for 3 with a triple, a homer, three RBIs and three runs scored. Dammeyer was 3 for 4 with two RBIs, Adams was 2 for 4, McReynolds was 2 for 3 with two RBIs and Cecil was 2 for 3 with an RBI.
Rutledge was 2 for 3 for Newton and Studebaker was 2 for 2 as Arbogast scattered five hits and two walks and struck out three to record the shutout.
Covington hosts Troy in a non-league doubleheader Sunday and still has to finish a suspended game against Arcanum — which it trails 2-1 in the fourth — to decide the CCC champion before the tournament starts next week.
“That’s what you play for, the tournament,” Denlinger said. The Buccs have reached the state semifinals three straight years. “We’ve only won the league maybe once in the last seven years, but in each of the past six years there’s been a CCC team at state. That says a lot for our conference. There are five teams in the CCC that can beat anyone on any day — and Newton is one of them. This was a good win for us.”
Newton, meanwhile, takes on Northwestern Saturday before kicking off tournament play.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” Kadel said. “But we are much improved from earlier this year. The score today may not show it, but we are. Some of the girls have come a really long way. We were just hoping to give them a better game today.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 440-5251 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.