MUNSTER | Continuing their early-season trends, Homewood-Flossmoor was short-handed while Munster was sure-handed Wednesday at Community Park.
Those differences contributing to the host Mustangs breaking into the win column with a 13-3, five-inning win.
Munster (1-1) had 15 hits in four innings, but coach Beth Thornburg was just as happy to see her squad make the routine plays over those frames, extending a season-opening errorless streak to 13 innings. That ended when H-F (0-2) pushed across two unearned runs in the fifth, but Thornburg remains upbeat about the Mustangs' defense.
"It is a rebuilding year for us on the mound and behind the plate," she said. "But we've got six girls returning – our shortstop, second baseman, first baseman and all three outfielders – with a lot of softball experience. We feel we've got a really good defense, and a couple of them have really improved from last year."
Third-year varsity shortstop Taylor Kotzo made her squad's first error, rushing a throw to first after missing a spinning tag attempt at a base runner. But, she also had a pair of RBI doubles among her three hits, and scored twice.
She's one of the leaders being counted on to help ease the transition after losing all-area battery mates Carly Murphy and Emma Hodges from last season's 24-8 squad.
"Those are two big pieces to lose," she said. "But we still have a very good defense and offense. I'd probably say defense over offense."
The offense more than held up its end against the Vikings. Kotzo doubled in Munster's first run in the first inning, led off the four-run third with the first of five singles in the frame and had an RBI double in the seven-run fourth.
Everybody in the lineup had at least one hit in support of sophomore hurler Amanda Osterhus (1-0), who was nicked for a run in the first after walking two batters but was otherwise brilliant, striking out six and allowing three hits over four frames.
"Eight of our nine hitters have had at least one season of hitting .320 or above on the varsity level," Thornburg said. "We feel like we're going to be able to execute offensively."
H-F coach Katie Rice feels the same about the Vikings, once she's able to get them together. Wednesday, a prior commitment left them without their second baseman and No. 2 hitter, Julia Wenckus; their center fielder, Olivia Hamilton, was out with a knee injury suffered in the Vikings' season-opening loss Tuesday and their projected starting left fielder was in China on a band trip.
The Vikings' lone highlight was Morgan Williams' RBI ground-rule double down the right-field line in the first. If it hadn't gotten stuck in the fence, it might have gone for a three-run, inside-the-park homer.
"This is definitely not the H-F team I thought would show up today," Rice said. "We're having a rough start."
Not that she's expecting this squad to mirror last season's 6-18 mark.
"We've got so many more talented players than we had last year," she said. "We just need to stop throwing the ball around, making silly errors."