The number zero is a popular one for the John Milledge Academy softball team in the early going of the 2019 season.
The Lady Trojans have no losses through two regular-season games, most recently shutting out the Trinity Christian Lady Crusaders Monday, 9-0. JMA junior pitcher Brayden Latimer and the defense behind her continued contributing to the zero-fest in Monday’s win, one that came as a no-hitter against the non-region opponent. Last season, Latimer struck out better than one batter per inning, a trend that will definitely continue in 2019 if she keeps up her current pace. Of the 15 outs her team recorded in the run-rule shortened affair, 13 came via punchout. She faced just 17 batters in the contest and allowed only two to reach base after surrendering a pair walks.
“Brayden shut them down early, which really set the tone,” said JMA head coach Andy Bonifay. “She was able to dominate with her velocity, so she just kind of outmatched them. Her rise ball was working for her as an out pitch, and they didn’t really have an answer for much. She was coming right at them and mowing them down.”
Bonifay’s team wasn’t just firing on all cylinders from inside the pitcher’s circle. The Lady Trojans were getting the job done with their bats, too, as they put the ball in play consistently, giving the Lady Crusader defense little time to gather itself between contact. The visitors may still be getting into the softball regular season groove, though, as they committed seven errors in the field.
“They were a Final Four team last year but they graduated a lot of girls,” said Bonifay. “They had some solid returners, but we went in with our minds set on putting it on them and not letting off the gas. Our girls were aggressive at the plate. Some of them got exposed, but we put together some quality at-bats that just happened to be one after the other. We tried to pile on as many runs as we could because if you let good teams hang around they can come back and get you.”
After Latimer sat Trinity down in order in the top half of the first, the home bats wasted no time in seizing the lead. Each of John Milledge’s first three hitters reached and scored thanks to either hits or defensive miscues. Catcher Cadence Bandows knocked in senior Sutton Eady with a single to put the Lady Trojans up 3-0 in the opening frame, one that saw them bat all the way through the order.
Latimer returned to the circle in the second and gave the Lady Crusaders the same treatment she provided in the first, striking out two and inducing a weak popout.
The John Milledge hitters produced another big inning in the third by putting five more across the plate. Latimer and the Lady Trojans continued to take care of business from there as they secured the 9-0 victory in five innings.
The Lady Trojans are off until Saturday when they are scheduled to compete in a tournament to be held at Augusta University. There they’ll play a couple of games against GHSA opponents Harlem High School (11:30 a.m.) and Lakeside High School at 2:30 p.m. Bonifay said he expects his team to face some strong competition in the two weekend matchups. John Milledge softball returns to its home diamond Tuesday to take on Brentwood in a 4 p.m. first pitch.