WESTTOWN >> It may be old-school, but keeping hitters off-balance is a time honored trait that always fuels successful pitchers.
On Wednesday in Ches-Mont softball action, Coatesville’s Megan Gochenauer was masterful in that category, utilizing a change-up that befuddled host West Chester Rustin all afternoon. The junior starter went six innings, fanned a dozen batters and was a major factor in the Raiders’ 8-0 three-hit shutout victory.
“That change-up was nasty,” said Coatesville catcher Emily Scott. “When Megan is on, I’d be afraid to be a batter on the box against her.”
The win ups the Raiders record to 5-5 in the league (6-5 overall). Following a rough starter to the season – which included three Ches-Mont losses by a single run – Coatesville has now won five of the last seven.
“We are right on the outside of the cutoff to make districts, so with half the season to go we are looking to play consistent softball and if we get hot at the right time anything can happen,” said head coach Bill Mendenhall.
“We had a tough start with nine games in 11 days, but now we have a normal week so we can practice. That’s helping. We are making progress.”
The Golden Knights (5-6, 7-4) seem to be headed the other way without injured star Mallory Hardwick, who has missed five games since suffering a knee injury. Without the University of Arkansas recruit Rustin has dropped two of the last four and have been outscored 28-15 in that span.
“As Mallory goes, we go,” said Rustin head coach Dennis Becker. “And we are really not going without her.
“She’s one of the best players around, and when we lost her after the (West Chester) Henderson game, our offense hasn’t been the same. It’s a bad time right now. We need to get back to work and keep playing.”
According to Becker, Hardwick could be back in the lineup in a couple weeks.
Without her, Gochenauer had a stress-free outing. She allowed a bunt single and bloop single through five innings, and a double to Mairead Hopkins in the sixth. She gave way to reliever Ashley Sherman for the final three outs.
“Megan has a good change-up, but it hasn’t always been consistent,” Mendenhall said. “Today she was consistent and it kept (Rustin) off balance all day. She threw it for strikes to batter after batter. Our pitching was the big difference in the game.
“We planned to take her out after six innings. It’s a warm day and I wanted to give Ashley (Sherman) an inning. It was preplanned.”
At the plate, the Raiders managed 11 singles and no extra base hits against Knights’ starter Emily Gillis. Coatesville broke it open by sending 10 batters to the plate in the third and scoring four times on just two hits, including an RBI it by Scott.
The Raiders then opened the fourth inning with four early hits, and added three more runs to round out the scoring. In the third and fourth innings, Coatesville benefited from a combined four bases loaded walks.
Scott was 3-for-5 to pace the attack. Leadoff hitter Caitlin Reynolds and cleanup batter Tori Clark each added two hits. The Raiders’ top five hitters combined to score seven runs and deliver eight hits in 18 at bats.
“The top of our lineup been getting on base all season,” Mendenhall said. “We didn’t hit many hard balls as we’ve done in other games, but we found some good spots. With them getting on we were able to manufacture some runs early.”
Gochenauer actually had more pitches working than just the change-up. She struck out six of the first seven batters she faced, and when Rustin did have baserunners, she stranded six of them. And she did not record a single walk.
“My change-up hasn’t been on lately, so the fact that it came back today really helped,” said Gochenauer, who acknowledged it may have been her best high school outing ever. “Our defense is getting better and we are hitting more. That makes things easier for a pitcher.”
The Knights got plenty of swings in — ten of their 12 strikeouts were swinging – but they never really seemed to get comfortable at the plate.
“We were trying to hit every ball to Exton instead of doing the right things. But we will continue to battle,” Becker said.
“We are very young. We have one senior out there playing right now. We had a freshman pitcher, a freshman shortstop and a bunch of sophomores all around out there.”
Coatesville 8, West Chester Rustin 0
Coatesville 104 300 0 — 8
West Chester Rustin 000 000 0–0
2B – Hopkins (R).
WP – Gochenauer. LP – Gillis.