The No. 2 hitter in softball is a lineup spot largely reserved for a player who can bunt, moving the leadoff hitter to second base and in scoring position, or has the speed to beat out the throw to first.
Carroll softball coach Steve Harshberger strays from that mentality.
“Why not?” he asked. “I have Morgan Balderas.”
Yes, yes he does. While Balderas, a senior second baseman, has quickness and ability to bunt, she has power.
She hit two homers in an 8-0, 12-0 sweep at Maize South on Thursday night.
Four of Balderas’ seven homers this season have come in her first at-bat, including in Game 2.
“Morgan is a game-changer at the second spot right at the start of the game,” Harshberger said. Leadoff hitter Hunter Hogan’s “job is to get on base, and Morgan’s job is to do what Morgan does. It’s huge to start the game that way.”
Balderas was 6 for 8 at the plate with six RBIs and five runs scored as Carroll improved to 10-0.
“I know that I have to get Hunter around, for sure,” Balderas said. “I know that we need to start the momentum early, and I want to set that for my team. I’m not trying to hit a home run, I’m just trying to get it going for my team.”
Carroll had 23 hits against Maize South, including 12 in the five-inning, run-rule win in Game 2. Hogan was 6 for 7 with three RBIs, and Jessi Haffner was 5 for 7 with four RBIs. Brittany Finney and Briana Hogan each had a home run.
The Eagles had more than offense. Finney threw a two-hitter, striking out eight in Game 2.
Haffner faced 24 batters, three over the minimum in Game 1.
“We need to hit better,” Maize South coach Teri Larson said. “Against a team like this, we need to hit the ball, and we didn’t. We were intimidated.
“ They’re an excellent team. You can’t make mistakes. We didn’t play our ‘A’ ball. If you don’t play your ‘A’ ball, you’re not going to compete.”
Haffner was helped by catcher Lauren Buchanan, who made two smart, perfect throws to pick off Maize South runners.
In the third inning, Buchanan rifled a throw to Balderas at second base for an inning-ending out with a Maize South runner on third. And then Buchanan ended the game by picking off a runner at first.
“She’s the best catcher I’ve ever gotten to play with and seen,” Balderas said. “ Lauren is smart.”
“I liked how we played defense tonight,” Harshberger said. “I liked Lauren picking the two back runners off. That helps. We can’t always see her signals, so if she (makes the throw), it’s kind of a surprise for us, too. It’s all her game back there. When we look up and the back runner is picked off and we’re out of the inning, it’s a good thing.”
Carroll 8, Maize South 0
|Carroll||140||003||0||—||8 11 0|
|Maize South||000||000||0||—||0 5 1|
W — Haffner. L — Sterneker. HR — Balderas, Carroll; B. Hogan, Carroll
Carroll 12, Maize South 0
|Carroll||102||72x||x||—||12 12 0|
|Maize South||000||00x||x||—||0 2 1|
W — Finney. L — Sage. HR — Balderas, Carroll; Finney, Carroll.