STATE COLLEGE — They say hitting is contagious.
If so, there’s an epidemic going on right now in the State College dugout.
Fresh off a 17-hit performance against Altoona, the Lady Little Lions smacked 14 hits in an 8-3 rout of Red Land in a Mid-Penn softball clash Tuesday at Community Field.
Sharaya Simco and Laura Harris each had three hits as State College (9-6) avenged a 4-2 loss against the Lady Patriots from earlier this season. The offensive onslaught was more than enough for Jess Henderson, who tossed a four-hitter.
Seven different Lady Little Lions had hits, including five with multiple hits. Five of the knocks went for extra bases as State College hung crooked numbers on the scoreboard in its final three-at-bats.
“It definitely helps when everyone is getting hits,” said Simco. “It makes you feel good when you come up to the plate.”
“Whenever your team is on a roll there’s energy,” Henderson added. “You can feed off of it.”
State College coach Rick Hall said his team’s output Tuesday translated from a good practice Monday. “When you do five hitting stations the day before and you get on the kids about focus, it’s amazing what they can do when they listen,” he said. “That’s two games in a row where we’ve had double-digit hits. It was really nice to see and it’s building confidence with each kid at the plate.”
Hall said his team specifically worked on facing Red Land’s Maggie Hahn, who held them to five hits earlier this season.
“We worked on the type of pitches that she threw and the kids executed,” Hall said. “That’s what I’ve been talking about all year long. This was probably the one game where I thought the majority of the team executed at the plate.”
State College left a pair of runners on in each of the first two innings, but broke open the scoreless game in the fourth inning.
Simco started the frame with a sharp single to center. She then swiped second, avoiding a tag when she appeared to be a dead duck, and moved to third on Harris’ single. Megan Robert followed with a sinking liner that Lady Patriots’ went for and missed as the shot went for a two-run triple. Robert later scored on an error to give State College a 3-0 lead.
State College added two more in the next frame. Allison Baney doubled to lead off the inning and moved to third on Henderson’s sacrifice. Simco followed with a towering RBI double to deep center field and scored on Harris’ RBI double to left-center field to make the score 5-0.
After Red Land scored an unearned run in the sixth, State College tacked on three more runs in the bottom of the frame. Baney drilled an RBI single; Henderson smoked an RBI double in the left-center field gap and Simco capped the Lady Little Lion scoring with an RBI single up the middle.
“We were a little bit more relaxed,” Simco explained of the team’s big day at the plate. “We weren’t so tense but we were still focused. Everyone just came through because we were confident in our bats today.”
Henderson didn’t allow a hit until Sydney Boreman’s double in the fourth. The right-hander walked three and struck out six. She gave up two runs (one earned) in the seventh as the raindrops began falling.
“I thought Henderson threw her best game of the year,” Hall said.
“I felt powerful and more confident than I have in the past couple of weeks,” the sophomore said. “It felt really good. It really helped to have my team play as well as they did behind me.”
Henderson, who has battled injuries, says she’s fortunate to be in the circle. “I’m really happy to be able to throw this season because I wasn’t sure that was going to happen,” she said. “I look as each game as a gift.”
Simco, who missed a good chunk of the season with an injury, is 6-for-8 with five RBIs in her last two games.
“No matter whether you put her at the third spot or the fifth spot, she gives you a threat,” Hall said. “Defensively, it’s nice because I can play her at third, in the outfield or catcher. ... She gives us versatility and the last couple of games she’s been really stroking the ball.”
Baney, Robert and Henderson had two hits each. Boreman had two hits for Red Land (9-9).
State College players hope that Tuesday’s win is an indication of the progress they’ve made as the postseason looms.
“We played these guys earlier in the season and it was a tough loss,” Henderson said. “Us being to execute like we did today really showed how we’ve improve throughout the season.”
Red Land coach Jason Munns was disappointed with his club. “We just came out flat, couldn’t get the bats going,” he said. “I don’t really have an explanation for it at this point. I’m going to dig a little deeper and have some discussions on the way home. There just seemed to be a lack of motivation today.”