MUNSTER | With long bus rides through the frigid, windswept arteries of Lake County, scheduled start times for Kankakee Valley softball games become arbitrary.
Fun times become necessary.
Singing and dancing were part of the jovial journey on Friday, and the Times No. 5 Kougars were loose and ready to hit by the time their 4-0 win over No. 6 Munster started right around 5 p.m.
"We're having fun," winning pitcher Ashley Dobson said. "We love winning games, and winning like this boosts the whole team's confidence."
Dobson, the No. 1 pitcher and No. 5 hitter for K.V. (11-3, 7-2 Northwest Crossroads Conference), singled to drive in two runs in the first inning. She then proceeded to confound the Munster hitters with her change-up and took a no-hitter into the sixth inning.
Only one Mustang reached base, via error, before Munster No. 9 hitter Taylor Kotzo singled with one gone in the sixth. Dobson allowed two hits and walked none with five strikeouts.
Dobson said she examines each batter's position in the box and the length of their swings, which in turn tells her when to throw the perfectly timed off-speed pitch. She said she used it about once every three pitches Friday.
"Starting off with a lead I was able to go out and relax," Dobson said. "Munster is a great program, and this win is good for us."
K.V. had its best season in school history last spring, and one of its three losses was to Munster. This week, the Kougars shut out Lowell, Hobart and the Mustangs by a combined score of 19-0 with Dobson allowing eight hits across three games.
"We're playing some really good ball," K.V. coach Brian Flynn said. "We're not getting tons of runs, but we're getting enough to go with our pitching and defense."
Alyssa Matson tripled to drive in a run in the second inning, and she singled to plate another in the fourth.
"Matson has been unconscious for us," Flynn said. "When she gets on, we usually end up scoring. There is good production behind her.
"These girls are used to winning, they like to compete, and they have fun. It's a lot more fun winning."
Munster (11-7, 4-4) is without Carly Murphy, but the pitcher is supposed to be able to start throwing the ball next week as she returns from injury.
Munster counteracted three errors with several run-saving defensive gems, including a 2-1-4-2 double play following a wild pitch in the fourth and several running snags in the outfield.
Hits, however, were hard to manage.
"(Dobson has) a nice change-up, and we didn't have good plate discipline today," Munster coach Beth Thornburg said.