By SCOTT JACKSON Courier sports writer
---- — FAIRFIELD – It wasn’t the most comfortable start to a day at the softball diamond for Bob Bradfield.
As he got his team prepared for their doubleheader Wednesday with Cardinal, the heat and humidity of the day was starting to get to the Fairfield head softball coach.
“I was sweating throughout all the pregame stuff,” Bradfield said. “Hitting some groundballs, getting stuff ready, I just couldn’t quit (sweating). It was getting into my eyes and my glasses were fogging over with sweat.”
“Outside of that….”
Bradfield didn’t have too much to sweat about once things got going Wednesday between the Trojans and the Comets at the Fairfield Summer Sports softball diamond. Lead-off hitter Sydney Burnett set the tone for what would a dominant evening for herself and her teammates, dropping the first pitch she saw from Lexi Fullenkamp over the head of third baseman Delaney Ridgway for a game-opening leadoff double.
It would be the first of four hits for Burnett on the night, including one of three doubles. The infield extra-base hit led off a five-run opening inning as Fairfield led from start to finish in a sweep of Cardinal, winning 7-0 in game one and 4-0 in the nightcap.
“The key thing was our pitchers threw strikes and we played great defense behind them,” Bradfield said. “Usually, when you do those two things really well, you’ll have an excellent chance to win.”
Both Fairfield pitchers were given more than enough cushion to work with by their offense. Alli Deao and Haley Grunwald finished the night tossing matching four-hit shutouts for the Trojans, limiting the Comets to a handful of scoring chances.
Cardinal did have opportunities to get on the scoreboard, and potentially garner at least a split, in the doubleheader by putting runners on base in nine different innings. Each time, however, both Deao and Grunwald responded by getting the next Comet hitters to record outs.
For Comet head coach Jerald Harter, it was just part of a frustrating night in Jefferson County for his team.
“It seemed like we couldn’t get a big two-out hit all night,” Harter said. “We had our chances. We put runners out there. We just needed someone to come up with that big hit to bring them around. Maybe it could have triggered something for the rest of the team.”
The other frustrating part of Wednesday’s doubleheader for Harter was the defensive miscues of the Comets, which started immediately as Cardinal committed three errors in Fairfield’s five-run opening inning. Cardinal would finish the night committing 10 errors in the two games, including six in game two that led to all four of Fairfield’s runs against Comet game-two pitcher Ridgway being unearned.
“We’re a team that’s only going to go as far as our defense can take us,” Harter said. “If we play good defense behind our pitchers, we have a chance to beat anyone. We’ve shown that already this season. When we don’t, we’ll have nights like this.”
Forcing the Comets into those errors was part of the Trojans’ strategy all along.
“We hit the ball hard. It wasn’t like we just hit it softly at them and they committed little easy errors. We smoked it at them,” Burnett said. “We also have a lot of fast girls on the team. We’re putting it in their heads that they got to make a play quickly to get us out.”
Burnett set that tone right away with her first at-bat. A seemingly fortunate base hit that dropped perfectly over the head of an infielder and just fair behind third would normally be good enough for a lead-off single for most hitters.
Burnett instead surprised the Comets by hustling around first and making it into the second base before Ridgway could even make a throw.
“We got a little lucky on that play because it dropped over the third baseman’s head, but it also bounced sideways a little,” Bradfield said. “Being that Sidney’s also left-handed, she got a great jump out of the box and was able to use all of those edges to her advantage.”
“It gives the whole team confidence when you can start the night like that,” Burnett added. “When you can get the first couple of girls on, you start to feel like you can really get it rolling.”
Burnett’s next two doubles were much more of the common variety with gap shots to the outfield. One of the Trojans’ youngest stars, eighth-grader Kenady Waugh, continued her impressive first season of varsity softball by driving in Burnett in the second inning of game one with an RBI double of her own to highlight a 2-5 night that including a pair of runs scored.
Waugh, who began her varsity career with home runs in her first two at-bats against Davis County earlier this season, talked about this first season playing with the Trojans.
“I’ve had a lot of fun playing with the older girls,” Waugh said. “They excepted me pretty well.”
Cardinal (14-12) returns to the diamond tonight for another area road test against another conference contender at SCC hopeful Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont. Fairfield (22-8) continued their chase for the Southeast Conference crown Thursday in a doubleheader at Keokuk as the Courier went to press before returning home to face Mount Pleasant Monday.
“We’re on a pretty high note even coming off a tough weekend tournament. I think things are looking up for us right now,” Burnett said. “We got a good draw in our (Class 4A) region. We’re leading the conference right now. We’ve got a chance to do a lot of great things before this season’s over.”
Fairfield 7, Cardinal 0
Cardinal 000 000 0 — 0 4 4
Fairfield 520 000 x — 7 7 0
Cardinal battery — Lexi Fullenkamp (L, 7-3) (6IP, 7H, 7R, 4ER, K, 2BB, HBP), Lindsay Moore catching.
Hits — Lindsey Davis 1-3, Fullenkamp 1-3, Jesse McElderry 1-3, Delaney Ridgway 1-3.
Fairfield battery — Alli Deao (W, 10-6) (7IP, 4H, 2K, BB), Karley Williams catching.
2B — Sydney Burnett 3, Kenady Waugh.
Hits — Burnett 3-4, MaKenna Ledger 1-2, Mackenzie McClure 1-2, Waugh 1-3, Williams 1-3.
RBI — McClure, Madison Roberts, Marissa Repp, Waugh.
Runs — Burnett 2, Waugh 2, McClure, Repp, Kelsey Roberts.
Fairfield 4, Cardinal 0
Cardinal 000 000 0 — 0 4 6
Fairfield 202 000 x — 4 4 0
Cardinal battery — Delaney Ridgway (L, 7-9) (6IP, 4H, 4R, BB), Lindsay Moore catching.
Hits — Lindsey Davis 2-3, Moore 1-3, Danae Moses 1-3.
Fairfield battery — Haley Grunwald (W, 12-2) (7IP, 4H), Marisa Repp catching.
2B — MaKenna Ledger.
Hits — Kenady Waugh 1-2, Sydney Burnett 1-3, Ledger 1-3, Karley Williams 1-3.
RBI — MacKenzie McClure, Williams.
Runs — Katie Anderson, Burnett, Repp, Waugh.