NEWARK – Hannah Smith certainly enjoyed her time in the batter’s box Monday more than her Newark Catholic counterparts.
The Heath senior had three hits and threw a two-hit shutout to lead the Bulldogs past the Green Wave 5-0 in Licking County League-Cardinal Division play. Heath (13-6, 4-5) earned a split in the season series and kept its title hopes alive.
“Last time we played them I struggled in both (hitting and pitching) definitely,” Smith said. “Coming back this time and doing it my senior year, getting them both going was good.”
Smith wasted no time, kicking off her big night with a double off the wall in center to start the game. Smith scored on a throwing error, and her RBI single to center the next inning helped the Bulldogs to a 3-0 lead after two innings.
Smith, who slapped a single through the left side in her third at-bat, is among the area leaders in hitting at better than .500. She also leads the area with 135 strikeouts after racking up 12 to stifle the Green Wave (9-6, 3-5).
“(Smith) is making good strides on the rubber,” Heath coach Ray Cooksey said. “She had some mechanical problems early on (in the season) and worked on them just a little bit with her pitching coach. They found out what the fine details are that we need to help her with.”
NC did not support Alex Thomas defensively. After the unearned run in the first inning, the Green Wave could have escaped the second inning with no damage had they cleanly handled the throw on a stolen-base attempt. The Green Wave also twice threw the ball away on sacrifice bunt attempts.
Thomas struck out 11 and allowed five hits and six walks.
“We make those errors and give them extra outs, they are going to capitalize on it,” NC coach Ron Graves said. “The first time we played these guys we did the exact thing they did tonight. We put the ball in play, moved it around, and they had a couple errors.”
Smith only had one 1-2-3 inning, but she allowed just a bunt single and a single that rolled just under her glove.
After striking out eight times in the first three innings, the Green Wave made more contact their second and third times through the order. The Bulldogs, however, played error-free defense behind Smith, with Taylor Molnar grabbing a liner at deep short to squelch the Green Wave’s final threat in the sixth inning.
“It definitely motivates me to pitch better because sometimes I get inside my head, but when you know you have a team behind you, it just makes things so much easier,” Smith said.
It gets no easier for NC, as the Green Wave play Granville in a makeup game Tuesday and Watkins Memorial on Wednesday. They had won six of seven before Friday’s loss to Johnstown and will need to keep their confidence.