CARBONDALE — Unless you make a sliding catch in the outfield, you aren’t getting dirty any more on Carbondale’s new softball field.
Nevertheless, Kate Crombar and the Terriers love it just the same.
“It’s awesome, it’s a joy,” she said minutes after a 10-3 win over Herrin Wednesday. “I love playing with these girls on this field. It’s beautiful, it’s a blast.”
Crombar provided a blast as well, lining a solo homer in the sixth to help cap a 13-hit onslaught that wiped out an early 3-0 deficit. Winning pitcher Madison Galloway (1-0) fanned seven and scattered eight hits in a complete game outing.
It was a good initiation to a new way of playing ball at Carbondale. It became the first school in the area to install an artificial turf infield, which should be good for about the next 10 years. The outfield remains a natural grass surface.
Terriers coach Kim Wheeler said her team’s reaction upon seeing the new infield for the first time last month was amazing.
“I won’t forget the look on their faces for the rest of my life,” she said. “They are excited to be able to play on this. I’ve heard all kinds of things about how this field might play, but we haven’t noticed a difference yet.”
The field seemed to play in a normal manner, although gusty winds made the yard act like Candlestick Park Midwest on anything hit in the air. Tigers center fielder Taylor Cornelius lost a pair of one-on-one battles on fly balls, including a Savannah Talley drive in the fourth that appeared to hit a brick wall at its apex, then found a second wind and blew over Cornelius’ head for a double.
That was part of a five-run inning that snapped a 3-3 tie and put Carbondale (2-0) in firm control. Five different Terriers knocked in runs during the outburst, with Regina Dedecker tripling in the go-ahead tally and Crombar lacing a double to right-center.
Crombar and Megan Bily each went 3 for 4 with three RBIs. Bily rifled a two-run double to the left-center field gap in the third, capping a three-run rally with two outs that evened the score at 3.
That came minutes after Herrin missed on an opportunity to put a chokehold on the game. Already ahead by three runs, the Tigers (0-1) filled the bases with two outs. But Galloway fanned No. 9 hitter Whitney Keel with a 1-2 riser to quell the threat.
“I think the momentum changed,” said Herrin assistant coach Stephanie Allen. “We’re young. This was our first game of the season, and we might have had the jitters.”
Tigers coach Angie Jilek was under the weather and didn’t make the trip. Allen saw her team convert three hits and a pair of errors into three first inning runs. Reagen Gosha doubled home the first run and Ali Painter’s sacrifice fly capped the outburst.
In the circle, Painter dominated on her first pass through the Terrier lineup. She fanned the side in the first two innings. However, Carbondale had the better of that matchup for the day’s remainder, working deep counts and then cashing in with a half-dozen extra-base hits.
“I loved the fact that it was a team effort and that we worked together through it all,” Crombar said. “We didn’t start off the way we wanted to, but once we started seeing the ball better and making contact, it all came together.”
Herrin’s last chance to change the narrative came and went in the fifth. With runners at second and third with no outs, Galloway speared a liner through the box from Painter, then induced a pair of groundouts to quash the rally.
After that, nothing was going to stop the Terriers from winning on their new carpet.
“It’s a good start,” Wheeler said. “But we have conference games next week. When we come back, we have to be ready.”