By SCOTT JACKSON Courier sports writer
---- — BLOOMFIELD – Entering Monday night, both Chariton and Davis County were looking to wash away the bad taste of a losing weekend in Jefferson County.
If it was a matter of relying on an ace pitcher to get that much-needed bounce-back win, it appeared the advantage could be found wearing Mustang maroon and gold. Entering Monday, Davis County junior Rylee Eakins had already become the first pitcher in the South Central Conference to top the 100-strikeout barrier.
But it wasn’t Eakins who was the most impressive ace dealing in the pitching circle on Monday night in Bloomfield. That honor went to the sophomore hurler wearing Chariton red and silver.
Ellie Bengtson stared down Eakins and the rest of the Mustangs, tossing her first shutout of the season. The young Charger hurler struck out seven batters, five more than Eakins, and didn’t allow one Mustang to reach with a walk as the five-hitter lifted Chariton to a much-needed 3-0 SCC road win.
“I know (Davis County) had been hitting,” Bengtson said after leading the Chargers to victory following an 0-3 visit to the Fairfield Tournament. “I thought it would be a good game where they’d score some runs and we’d score some runs. I thought it would be a good battle. I didn’t think the shutout would happen.”
Facing a pitcher in Eakins, who has racked up strikeout totals of 12, 13 and 15 this season, Chariton didn’t waste any time making contact at the plate. Back-to-back errors by the Mustang defense allowed the Chargers to plate the first run of the night two batters into the game.
“We took some batting practice before we left for the game and the girls set some goals going into this game,” Chariton head coach Deb Seuferer said. “One of those goals was to put the ball in play and put the pressure on the defense to make a play. That’s something we’ve really struggled with this year, so it was huge that we had girls step up to do that early in the game.”
Coming off two-straight losses themselves in Fairfield on Saturday, Davis County could not find an answer to the Chargers early strike. The Mustangs saw a one-out single in the opening inning erased by a line drive off the bat of Cami Guiter snared by Bengtson and turned into an inning-ending double play.
“You have to give a lot of that credit to Chariton,” Davis County head softball coach Jason Lough said. “They made great plays. I don’t think they had an error. It just seemed like no matter what we did, we couldn’t string anything together at the plate.”
“I thought we played solid defense,” Seuferer added. “That was huge for us too. That’s another one of our goals. We’re good enough to get to balls and not give up a big hit to bring a lot of runs across.”
In fact, the Mustangs only advanced runners into scoring position three times all night and stranded four runners on for the entire game. Any scoring rallies Davis County tried to come up with were halted by Bengtson, who seemed to get even tougher as the game went on as the Mustangs tried to work the pitch count only to be set down as the Charger sophomore collected five her seven strike outs in the final three innings.
“One of the goals I made for myself earlier in the day was to cut down on my walks,” Bengtson said. “I wanted to have two less walks in this game. Obviously, I got that.”
“She was tough. She didn’t give in on anything,” Lough said of the Chariton hurler.
The Chargers gave Bengtson enough insurance with single runs in the fifth and seventh. Junior Kourtney Nichols brought home both runs, scoring Kylie Bengtson with an RBI groundout in the fifth before beating out an infield single to score Chelsea McGee in the seventh.
“We heard that (Eakins) might be a faster pitcher coming in, so to make contact on each ball she sent into us was going to be huge,” Nichols said. “We haven’t been making a lot of contact. My goal was the get contact on every single pitch and that’s what I did.”
The win snapped a five-game losing streak for Chariton (3-7, 1-2), who will finally looks to play their first home game of the season tonight against Pleasantville.
“We’ve had four home games rained out so far this season,” Seuferer said. “We’re a young team that hasn’t played a home game yet. We still have a lot of season to look forward to and a lot of positive things ahead of us.”
Davis County (10-9, 2-1) plays at Twin Cedars tonight.
Chariton 3, Davis County 0
Chariton 100 010 1 — 3 6 0
Davis Co.000 000 0 — 0 5 3
Chariton battery — Ellie Bengtson (W, 3-6) (7IP, 5H, 7K), Emma Fuhs catching.
2B — Kylie Bengtson.
Hits — Kourtney Nichols 2-3, Micaela Folkerts 1-3, Chelsea McGee 1-3, K. Bengtson 1-4, Miranda Davis 1-4.
RBI — Nichols 2.
Runs — K. Bengtson 2, McGee.
Davis County battery — Rylee Eakins (L, 9-6) (7IP, 6H, 3R, 2ER, 2K, BB), Whittney Madden catching.
Hits — Conner Wilfawn 1-2, Blair Bodkins 1-3, Janel Fenton 1-3, Macy Grooms 1-3, Madden 1-3.