ENGLEWOOD — A pair of stellar defensive plays and a lively freshman’s bat was about all the Lemon Bay Manta Rays faithful could cheer about Thursday night in a 6-0 setback to Venice at Larry Pope Field.
The Indians, of District 7A-11, advanced their record to 2-1 on the young season while the Rays (5A-12) fell to 3-2 after a 3-0 start. In their previous four games, the Manta Rays put up a total of 33 runs.
“A lot of our offensive struggles tonight were controlled by our approach to the plate,” Manta Rays coach Kim Pinkham said. “We’re not as aggressive as we’d like to be, but we’ve shown bits and pieces of it here and there. But there wasn’t nearly enough of that aggression tonight.”
Freshman Bailey Grossenbacher collected both of Lemon Bay’s hits. Her 2-for-3 night included a line-drive single to left in the first that continued a promising rally. Aimee Holt opened the home first by being hit by a pitch, but after Grossenbacher’s shot, the rally fizzled.
Grossenbacher picked up her second hit in the fifth. Her shallow fly to left fell just beyond the reach of Venice third baseman Elsie Rivera.
“They were pretty much all over the place, mostly inside and outside,” Grossenbacher said of the Indians’ trio of pitchers. “There was a lot of spin on the pitches, but I managed to get a hold of a couple when I needed to.”
While the Manta Rays bats were largely silent, their defense was very solid. Two particular plays brought the Lemon Bay fans to their feet.
In the third inning, shortstop Leanna Kelly dove into the hole to snag a line drive out of the air. Two innings later, it was Karlie Swiederk who earned the cheers.
She made a run-saving catch when she dove into the hole to her left to snag another liner. At the time there were two Indians on base.
“Defensively, we’re right where we want to be. We have a lot of versatility there,” Pinkham said.
While the Manta Rays struggled with their offense, the Indians were in good form most of the way. They collected seven hits off starter Logan Johnson and Grossenbacher. Johnson took the loss after pitching the first four innings.
Venice sent seven batters to the plate in the second inning and scored three times as Johnson struggled with her control. Though she walked a pair in the inning, one run was unearned after a Lemon Bay error.
“We’re going to have to be much more aggressive in the batter’s box,” Pinkham said. “We’re still trying to find the identity of this team and where everybody fits in. In time, that’ll all take care of itself.”
Lemon Bay plays again at 7 p.m. today at Riverdale. The Manta Rays visit Riverview at 7 p.m. Monday.