Less than a week after picking up its first win of the season, the Lakeland Union High School softball team hoped to gain some momentum when it hosted Tomahawk in Great Northern Conference play.
Momentum is something the Thunderbirds struggled to find all evening, however.
Despite falling into an early hole, Lakeland battled back, but could never make the play - offensively or defensively - to put it over the top as Tomahawk went home with a 13-4 win.
"We hit the ball, we hit the ball hard, we'd get girls on base, but we just get the big hit to get more runs in," LUHS head coach Dean Parris said. "Strikeouts against [Rachel] Dallman's not bad. She's a good pitcher, but if you noticed in the first couple innings when we couldn't catch up to her. Maybe that's when our strikeouts happened, but later on when we saw her once - it's just timing her fastball - they started hitting the ball. We just couldn't get that big hit."
Tomahawk scored two runs in the top of the first and four in the third to take a 6-0 lead, but Lakeland managed to cut the lead in half.
After holding the Hatchets scoreless in consecutive innings, the T-Birds got on the board thanks to a throwing error, and then got back-to-back sacrifice flies from Syerra Farah and Kenadi Mayo to cut it to 6-3.
Inconsistency followed, though, as Tomahawk scored once in the top of the fifth, but Lakeland ended the inning with a double play.
The T-Birds cut the lead back to three runs as Caitlyn Hartigan drove in a run with another sacrifice.
That's as close as it would get, as Tomahawk score two more runs in the sixth and four in the top of the seventh.
"Defense, that's what's driving me a little bit crazy right now," Parris said. "We should be better defensively, we're just making some mental mistakes. It may not show up as an error, a physical error that we can put it down, but mentally we're just not in the right spots. We're throwing the ball around, we're not thinking - we ask the girls to think before the play even happens - they have plenty of time, the batter is looking at the coach, the batter is in the batter's box, they have plenty of time. Where is it going to go on the ground? What do I do with it? If it's in the air, where am I going to go with it?
"They should know and they're not making those right plays. It's a little frustrating because we go over and over and over in practice, and we think we have it covered, because we execute in practice and those same exact plays that we executed, they don't execute. That's a little frustrating, but we'll work it out."
Parris believed the game was closer than the scoreboard indicated, particularly with seven girls playing new positions this year.
In the bottom of the sixth, down 9-4, Lakeland had runners on first and second, but hit into a double play and then the inning ended on a pop-up to the first baseman in foul territory to end the inning with no runs scored.
It was an indication of how the game seemed to go for the T-Birds on this day.
"We just have to stay away with the big innings," Parris said. "I don't mind giving them a run an inning. I can kind of live with that, it's just when we are supposed to make that third out and we don't - our shortstop really made a great play, I thought she had it and it just rolled out of her glove, and the next play she made an error. That's two runners on and they score from there. Where we should be out of innings after three outs, we give them maybe four or five and they score four or five runs."
Courtney Theller and Whitney Osero each went 4 for 5 at the plate for Tomahawk, while Danielle Kurth had four RBIs.
Lakeland (1-5) is back in action again with home games Monday and Tuesday against Rhinelander and Irownwood, respectively.
Nick Sabato may be reached at email@example.com or via Twitter @SabatoNick.