From an outsider’s perspective, the brief huddle near third base between No. 3 Northern Coach Robert Earl Radford and three of his players was the turning point in a close afternoon game. The first hit after the chat at the top of the sixth was a single by sophomore Natalie LaPlaca to send Holly Van Wie home and spark a four-run inning and eventual 6-0 win against Chopticon.
But LaPlaca hadn’t actually stuck to the plan hatched in the huddle.
Radford “had said that I might have to take a few pitches, especially if one of our batters on base was going to steal,” she said of the conversation. “But I swung at the first pitch I saw.”
The next two hits — doubles from Sarah Bennett and Jess Cummings — helped the Patriots (4-1) send a message they’ve been focusing on all week: Last Monday’s 5-3 loss at Chopticon, the first in 77 games, is behind them.
“The first couple hours after, we took it to heart,” said Cummings, a Penn State commit and last season’s All-Met Player of the Year. “Then we started using it as motivation. We felt terrible. We sat down and talked about it, and said, ‘It’s over, it’s done with.’”
“We took it as motivation because everyone was out to get us,” LaPlaca added.
Walking away from a loss was a new feeling for a team with enough consecutive state titles (six) to require two rows of accolades on their home scoreboard.
“After that happened, we knew it was a feeling we didn’t want to feel again,” Cummings said.
Cummings finished with nine strikeouts and Bennett led the Patriots at bat with a double and a home run in the fourth inning. Andrea Davis struck out seven for Chopticon (4-1). Avenging last week’s loss to the Braves was just a start, Cummings said. They played a better mental and physical game against Chopticon at home, but even with the win streak restarted at three, “we have so much more to go,” Cummings said.
“I know what I need to work on and I’m focusing on it every day,” she said. “Being good is never good enough. There’s always something to do.”