Swansea junior ace Miranda Rogers opened the regular season on Monday against Brookland-Cayce by pitching a perfect game in the Tigers’ 1-0 win over the Class 3A seventh-ranked Bearcats.
On Wednesday at Gilbert, it was a different story for both Rogers and the Tigers. Rogers was hit hard and the Swansea defense fell apart in a 12-2 loss to the host Indians in a surprisingly lopsided non-region game pitting two preseason Top 10 Class 2A teams coming off highly successful 2011 campaigns.
“The thing I’m most surprised with is the way we’re hitting the ball at the start of the season,” said veteran Gilbert coach Reuben Eargle.
No. 5 Gilbert opened the season Monday with a 3-0 win over neighboring Pelion, and blasted Saluda 15-0 on Tuesday, smacking 19 hits including four home runs.
In their third game in three nights, the fifth-ranked Indians rapped 10 hits and took advantage of seven Swansea errors to post their third straight 10-run-rule win over the Tigers over the last two seasons. Gabby Keisler was the hitting star with two home runs, giving her three round trippers to date.
“Last year, we didn’t see Rogers, but I know she’s a quality pitcher and I kind of expected a low scoring game tonight,” said Eargle.
It was a 2-2 deadlock entering the bottom of the fourth inning when the Indians erupted for five runs on four hits. The big blows were a two-out RBI triple by Savannah Anderson followed by a two-run bomb by Keisler. Gilbert ended it with another five spot in the sixth. Keisler’s three-run blast made it official.
Keisler, a sophomore, went 3-for-4 with two runs and five RBIs against Swansea after hitting a home run and pitching a shutout at Saluda. Anderson had two hits, scored three runs and drove in three.
Lyndie Dorgan improved to 2-0 with her second straight shutout. The crafty sophomore right-hander allowed only two Swansea hits and induced 14 ground ball outs.
“Lyndie is a location pitcher, and isn’t going to overpower anybody,” said Eargle. “But when she’s putting the ball where she wants to, she is very difficult to hit hard.”
Swansea, ranked seventh in the preseason coaches poll, suffered its first setback in five outings.
“I’m not surprised the way Gilbert hit the ball,” said Tigers coach Marty Mack. “They are as fundamentally sound at the plate as anybody we’ll play. Miranda was a little tired tonight and we didn’t back her very well in the field.”
Gilbert season outlook
Despite losing Keisler with a broke thumb midway through the 2011 season, the Indians went 23-5, won the Region 3 and District 3 championships and advanced to the Upper State tournament.
Keisler is back, as is Dorgan who had to carry the load in the circle last season. Keisler was 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA when she was lost. Dorgan rang up an 18-4 record and a 2.31 ERA. Gilbert’s pitching is a major strength.
Eargle was a bit concerned about the offensive at the start of the season. Keisler, Dorgan, Kathryn Cochcroft, and Savannah Anderson were all regulars last season, but none had impressive individual numbers.
So far, so good.
The newcomers in the lineup are freshmen Jenna Williams at shortstop, Gibson Westfall at catcher, Dakota Ulmen at second base and Nikkie Hopkins at third base.
Swansea season outlook
The Tigers went 17-9 a year ago and went on a magical run in the state playoffs after finishing third in Region 6. Swansea rallied out of the losers bracket to win a district title and advance to the Lower State tournament.
Five starters return – Rogers, catcher Brittany Nelums, first baseman Haley Mack and outfielders Cara Lucas and Amber Alexander
The new players in the fold include sophomore Brooke Slygh in the outfield, and freshman Elen Ashley and Brenna Regalis (shortstop).
“We have some inexperience at key positions, so we’re going to have some growing pains at times,” said Mack. “But we learned last year that it’s not how you start that matters, but how you finish.”