OTTAWA — The Ottawa High School softball club knew that it had one outstanding pitcher on its roster, junior Sloan Gayan. Turns out she’s not alone.
Freshman Abby Bukantis was superb in her varsity starting debut in the circle, limiting visiting Plano to just one unearned run and one hit through the first five innings to start the Lady Pirates on their way to a strong 6-1 victory over the Lady Reapers here at King Field on a windy, chilly Monday afternoon.
Her teammates backed her with an unearned run in the bottom of the first, then broke open a pitchers’ duel with Plano starter Brianna Lupa with three runs in the fifth.
Gayan came on to hurl the final two frames just to get some work in OHS’s weather-related sparse schedule and was touched for a single run in the seventh before closing the door on the home team’s third victory in as many games this young season.
“Our whole plan was to let Abby get her first start, get settled in, get comfortable,” said Ottawa coach Adam Lewis, “and she was outstanding right from the 1-2-3 first, and she never really slowed down the rest of the way. We wanted her to go through their lineup two, three times and let Sloan get some work because we’ve been off so many days in the last week. Both did an awesome job, especially Abby for a first varsity start.
“The rust showed at the plate. We were taking pitches over the plate and chasing pitches off the plate, but the third time through the order, everybody settled in and took better swings. ... It could definitely be a little warmer out here, but it’s good to get a game in.”
Bukantis allowed just a walk in the second inning and a single to Grace Stevenson in the third during her five frames in the circle and left with five strikeouts and the one pass. However, Lupa was on her game, too, starting out eight of the first nine Ottawa hitters with a first-pitch strike, then spinning the ball off the plate to make them chase.
The visitors’ ace sophomore started out behind after OHS’s Jenna Nink led off the home first reaching on an error. She stole second, took third on Jazzy Bowman’s groundout and scored on a wild pitch.
But Lupa kept them off the board again until the fifth when Michaella Battistelli’s line single to left started things. Abi Claus and Nink followed with singles for one run before Bowman slapped an RBI groundout and Gayan plated a third with a sacrifice fly to right.
A double by Bailey Simpson, an RBI single by Cassie Claus and a run-scoring infield hit by Nink completed the scoring that Gayan made stand up with her three strikeouts in two innings, despite allowing a pair of hits.
Lupa fanned five and walked one, but was tagged for eight hits, three by Nink.
“I was happy with our pitching. I thought (Lupa) was throwing lights-out out there,” said Plano coach Dwayne Love. “It was a real battle up through the fourth inning before they caught up to her and were able to put the bat on the ball. We made a couple of mental errors out there that I think cost us a few runs out there, but it was a defensive struggle for a while, too.
“This is a young team, and I’m happy with how we’re progressing.”