By Justin Whitaker
CLAYTON — Two victories over the defending Class 2A state champions on back-to-back days isn’t bad. Especially when that winning team had not practiced in two weeks.
Class 2A No. 12-ranked Cascade beat No. 2-ranked South Putnam 3-2 Tuesday night at home, after a 4-3 victory on the road Monday against their West Central Conference rival.
Because of inclement weather and spring break, the Cadets had a two week window without practice and coach Don Helmick was unsure what the games back from break would bring.
“We had kids playing positions they’ve never played so I wasn’t real sure how tonight was going to go,” he said. “But the pitching did extremely well, Brenna Sallee had a great game at third base. We some made mistakes from kids in new positions but we’ll be okay with that. It was a great win, had some key hits and that’s the defending state champions.”
Helmick believes that since the 2000 season, the Cadets have beaten the Eagles only three times. Three of Cascade’s five losses last season came at the hands of South Putnam, including the sectional finals.
“To beat them in both close games, it’s gratifying from the standpoint that hopefully the girls can hopefully get a little bit over that hump,” Helmick said. “South Put has kind of been their poison.”
While happy with Tuesday’s victory, the Cadets sit 3-0 very early in the season.
“We can’t let this be the satisfaction of the season,” Helmick said.
Sallee scored freshman Casey Bell with a single in the bottom of the first inning. Junior Shelby Collier added a single in the second inning to bring in junior Kayla Havens for an early Cascade 2-0 lead.
South Putnam was able to muster some offense in the fourth inning to tie the game at 2-2 after a double from Mattie Varvel and a single from Ashlee Gibson on back-to-back plays.
Both teams went three up and three down on their next at-bats before the bottom of the fifth inning when the Cadets loaded the bases.
Junior Morgan Burch sent a grounder strong up the middle to drive in Collier for the go-ahead run.
“That was a huge hit, she had just popped up the time before,” Helmick said. “To come through in that situation was huge.”
The Eagles left two on base in the sixth inning and was unable to get a hit in the top of the seventh to end the contest.
Junior Kellie Mink threw 10 strikeouts in six innings, including two each in the first five innings.
“Kellie came out and we got off to a great start,” Helmick said. “We gave her a couple runs, it’s the first game she’s started and she went in and battled.”
One of the Cascade’s goals this season is to win conference. The Cadets never have in school history and for the first time in seven years they are not playing catch up after the first conference games.
“We’ve always put ourselves in the hole so this year we’re at the top looking down a little bit and we’ve got to just keep getting better,” Helmick said.