By MIKE PHILLIPS / Corsicana Sun
The first pitch of the season was a screwball.
Honest, no heat, no big bending curve, no fancy drop — a guess-what-I’ve-got-for-you, twisting, turning, it-went-that-away screwball.
The poor batter from Hill College never had a chance. She stood frozen, helpless and baffled, watching that screwball twist backward right over the strike zone.
You might want to make a note of that. Just in case Navarro’s softball team, this close-knit, tough and talented team of young women who love softball and like each other even more, makes it to the NJCAA nationals later this year.
If Navarro ends up playing for the national title, someone is going to ask, “How did this whole thing get started?”
The first pitch was a screwball …
It was a perfect day for Opening Day at Navarro, where the Bulldogs were close to perfection themselves, beating Hill 8-0 in five innings and then taking the second game of the doubleheader 6-0.
Navarro’s pitching staff not only shut out Hill all afternoon, but Casey Peters tossed a five-inning no-hitter in the opener.
If that wasn’t enough of a welcoming party for the new staff that includes three transfers, get this: Four pitchers combined to allow just one walk all day.
Peters didn’t allow any.
She took the momentum of that screwball and turned it into a no-no, tossing a gem to start the season.
“I was feeling it today,” said Peters, a sophomore lefty who returned at Navarro. “There was a lot of energy from everybody. That first pitch was a perfect screwball and got everybody pumped. I could hear them behind me. When things like that happen it pumps up everybody, and it really pumped me up.”
In the fourth inning third baseman Yasmin Melero made a phenomenal play at third and threw the runner out from her knees.
“Yas really picked me up,” Peters said. “That was the play of the day.”
Hill could manage only five hits all afternoon. Navarro’s Kaitlin Gorden went 4 for 4 with a double and an RBI all by herself. Then there was MaKenzie McGallion, who went 3 for 3 in the opener and scored three times, and Taylor Goulet, a freshman catcher from Hewitt Midway who stepped right in and stepped into a pitch in the second game, belting Navarro’s first home run of the season — a three-run shot in the sixth that made the final 6-0. Goulet, who hit just three homers last year at Midway, said she didn’t even think it was a homer.
“I thought, a triple or maybe a double,” Goulet said. “It really feels good to come out here and play the way we played today. Everybody was excited. It was Opening Day.”
Goulet went 3 for 3 and drove in two runs in the opener. She drove in five for the afternoon.
“It definitely felt good for me,” she said. “I kind of struggled mentally in the fall, but it really felt good today.” She added that she just felt good about being at Navarro.
“I love it here,” she said. “We’ve got great coaches. We’ve got great players, and we’re close. It’s fun to be here.
They had fun at the plate.”
Navarro’s bats pounded out a dozen hits in the opener, including five in a five-run second inning as McGallion had a single to get things started. Gorden, Goulet and Anika Barbosa all had RBI singles and Lindy Kennedy had a two-run single. Navarro scored twice in the third on an error and singles by McGallion, Jaclyn Kresta and Goulet, and added a run in the fifth to end the game on singles by McGallion, Alissa Chavez and Goulet.
Kennedy had a big day in Game 2. She tripled in the third and scored on Gaby Martinez’s single, and doubled in the sixth and scored on another RBI single by Martinez to make it 3-0.
Peters had an RBI single in the second to get Navarro on the board and Goulet cleared the bases with her three-run homer in the sixth to end the scoring.
The pitchers and defense did the rest. Ashley Smith, a transfer from Harding University, started and got the win in the second game, allowing three hits over five innings and striking out five without allowing a walk. Kellyn Cormier, a sophomore who pitched at Navarro last year, pitched a one-hit sixth and Danielle Salas, a transfer from Crowder College in Missouri, pitched a one-hit seventh to end it. Cormier and Salas both had one strikeout.
It all looked too easy.
Peters said she couldn’t wait for the season to start, and that was evident with all the Navarro players.
“Our energy before the game was great and that reflected how we played,” McGallion said. “Everyone was really pumped up to be playing our first game and to be playing at home. They were all excited about the season. We feel like we have a lot to prove and couldn’t wait to play.”
Then came the screwball. Then a barrage of hits. Then the no-hitter, and another shutout.
And all of it was wrapped in that feel-good energy that seems to define this team.
“I think this team is going to be fun to watch,” Navarro coach Jessica Karenke-Burke said after the sweep. “They were fun to watch today.”