By KEVIN THOMPSON
HOLCOMB — The Holcomb Lady Longhorns had to feel as though Thursday's matchup against Elkhart was their season opener.
After not playing since opening the season exactly two weeks ago, Holcomb took on a team that had already played eight games.
Some of that rust showed in game one, as Elkhart took the opener 10-8, but Holcomb responded with a resounding 13-2 run-rule win in the nightcap.
Elkhart (4-6) just played on Monday, dropping a pair of games to Lakin, but Holcomb has had to settle for practicing inside due to weather since falling to Colby on March 28.
After coming oh-so-close in the first game, the Longhorns pounced on the Wildcats.
Holcomb batted around in the first two innings, scoring four runs on five hits in each.
Katie Pfeifer batted in Ashley Mongeau to get things rolling. Haley Becker knocked her in with a single, then Hayley Walck belted a two-run homer over the left-field fence, her second of the day.
After plating four more in the second, Holcomb went up 11-1 after three, having outhit Elkhart 14-2 in the process.
The defense stepped up in a huge way in the fourth when the Wildcats mounted a rally. Elkhart opened the inning with two singles, but a throw out from short to home took out the lead runner, Kenzie Roth struck out the next hitter on a slow changeup, and after a walk loaded the bases, Brynn Grieshaber popped out to first to end the threat.
Elkhart scored once in the fifth inning, but Becker's two-run single over third base plated two and the Longhorns had their much-awaited first win.
The solid win and even the close loss felt good, Walck said. Both were team efforts.
"The nerves are off and we seem ready to play as a full team now," the senior with the two homers said.
Those thoughts were echoed by her coach.
"We've been stuck inside, just like everybody has. But to get outside and face a live pitcher again is always nice," Holcomb coach Jennifer Barrett said. "We were a little rusty in the first game, but to come out hitting like that in the second was really nice."
The 16 hits in Game 2, spread among eight batters, is the best Holcomb has hit, albeit in this short season, Barrett said.
The timely hits, abundant in the second game, were not as timely in the opener, she added. The Horns left too many runners on base, despite getting 13 hits from seven batters.
In Game 1, Holcomb battled back after falling behind 4-0 and 8-3, tying the game at 8-8 in the fourth inning when Madi Taylor got on with a double and scored on a passed ball. Then Mongeau doubled in Walck.
But Elkhart scored in the seventh inning on three straight singles, taking a 2-run lead.
In its final inning, Holcomb started with a strikeout and groundout before Taylor and Walck walked. But a forceout stranded them and ended the game.
Roth took the complete-game loss, striking out four and walking just one. She duplicated those numbers in the second-game win, but this time the Wildcats, who got 13 hits in the opener, got just six in the second.
Barrett said Roth's strategy in the win was to hit the outside corner because Elkhart likes to pull the ball. Good defense behind Roth helped, as well.
"Defensively, we played very solidly in the second game," Barrett said. "We made some big plays and didn't have many errors."
Holcomb (1-3) hopes to keep that consistent hitting and fielding going next week as they host two league rivals, Hugoton on Tuesday and Scott City on Friday.
Elkhart 044 000 2 -- 10 13 2
Holcomb 033 000 2 -- 8 9 2
WP:White, LP: K. Roth. 2B: Holcomb 3 (Deniston, Taylor, Mongeau). HR: Elkhart 1 (Mills), Holcomb 1 (Walck).
Elkhart 100 01 -- 2 6 2
Holcomb 443 02 -- 13 16 2
WP: K. Roth, LP: White. 2B: Elkhart 2 (White, Mills), Holcomb 1 (Deniston) HR: Holcomb 1 (Walck).