As reporters approached Northeast softball coach Lynn Pitonzo after yesterday's season-opener against North County, she turned and asked,"Now do you believe me when I say we're young?"
The combination of inexperience and a quality opponent proved too much for the host Eagles, who fell behind by 10 runs after two innings en route to a 15-0loss to the Knights.
While Northeast brought just one full-time returning starter intothe game, the Knights countered with a veteran line-up and a No. 2 ranking in the metro area.
For once, the four-time defending Class 2A state champion Eagles were on the negative side of a mismatch.
"They're learning," Pitonzo said. "We need to shore up our positions defensively and work on a lot of basics."
And take some swings against a less dominant pitcher.
North County windmiller Karen Hay looked in mid-season form, giving up just three hits and striking out 14 in going the distance.
"She worked hard during the winter," saidKnights coach Sue Fitchett. "On a cold day like this, the question is whether you keep her going or not, and I said it was her decision, and she said she wanted to do it."
Hay, who went 11-5 and was named second-team All-County as a junior, said she was scared coming intothe game, but she looked in complete control once it started.
"I was really nervous," she said. "I heard Northeast was so much weaker without all those players (from last season), but I didn't believe it. I didn't know what to expect, so I was scared."
The Knights' 10-run second inning did wonders to soothe her nerves.
Fourteen batters came to the plate against senior pitcher Stacy Reynolds during thedecisive inning, when North County pounded out eight hits and Northeast committed three of its six errors.
Nicki Faulkner and Cheryl Tomshack each had two hits and three RBI during the inning. Hay singled and had a sacrifice fly, and Lisa Garrison singled in a run.
A Kim Horney single in the third brought in another run, and an error and T. C. Horney single in the sixth delivered two more to give the Knights a 13-0 lead.
North County closed the scoring in the seventh on fielder's choice grounders from Alice Newton and Amy Hennessee.
Northeast almost broke through with a run in the bottom of the seventh when Robin Konrad led off with a walk and stole second. She moved to third on a Velvet Farrell ground out, but Hay fanned the last two batters to preserve her shutout.
Reynolds, who won two games last year as the third starter, lasted four innings yesterday before Pitonzo replaced her with sophomore Loren Bailey. Bailey opened the game atfirst base, giving Northeast three starters who either were freshmenor sophomores.
"She threw OK," Pitonzo said of Reynolds, who fared better at the plate with a walk and two singles. She gave up nine hits, walked two and struck out three.
"She kept the ball down; allthey did was meet it. They didn't power anything over anybody's head. All they did was meet it.
"I'm sure the wind and the cold didn'thelp, but Karen was pitching in the wind and the cold, too."
Freshman shortstop Jen Johansen singled off Hay with two outs in the second inning, but she was thrown out trying to steal second.