Benton yielded more walks to Lafayette in the first inning than the total amount of runs the Cardinals scored all game long, and it resulted in their defeat on Tuesday night at Hyde Park.

The Fighting Irish won the contest 7-3 thanks to a solid six-inning performance by freshman pitcher Makenzie Leake. Benton (6-8) senior pitcher Paige Edson walked five batters in less than two innings, with four of those walks coming in the top of the first. The Irish (8-3) scored at least one run in each inning until the fifth.

Lafayette coach Jeff Leake noticed his softball team plays its best ball when in possession of an early lead.

“Anytime you can get on that board and get ahead, the girls just relax,” Leake said. “When they can relax and play, it helps. I thought we did a good job of making (Edson) throw strikes and putting the ball in play when we had to.”

The scoring started when Lafayette sophomore Ellie Wattenbarger drove in a run with a sacrifice fly during the top of the first, but the Irish missed out on more runs after squandering a bases-loaded scenario. Benton matched the Irish with a sac fly of its own thanks to senior Keylee Buxton, and the game was tied.

“Even though we only got one or two here and there, (Lafayette) did a good job of not letting us get three or four (runs),” Leake said. “We were a couple inches away a few times from really opening it up and putting up some crooked numbers there.”

After relinquishing the lead, Lafayette got right back to work and scored runs in each of the next three innings, resulting in a lead that was enough to hold Benton at bay. Cardinal coach Wayne Miller thinks Benton’s loss is a simple narrative.

“We are struggling,” Miller said. “We can’t pitch it, we can’t catch it and we can’t hit it. If that’s not the episode for struggle. We go out one night and everything works. Next two nights, nothing works. We just help the other team too much. We don’t field routine plays, we walk too many people and we’re not consistent on offense. That’s about the end of the story right there.”

While Benton showed flashes on offense, Miller said costly errors and walks stunted any growth the Cardinals were trying to make.

“The hits you’re gonna get,” Miller said. “Stifle the stuff in between. Don’t walk people. Catch what you’re supposed to catch. I’m used to a little different type of teams. I was at (Bishop) LeBlond for 15 years, and we won a state title. We’re down right now. We’re pretty young, and we’re gonna get better. It’s going to take a little time.”

Tuesday’s game was the Pink Out game in order to raise money for the fight against breast cancer, and It was a happier scene for the Leake family. Leake watched his daughter Makenzie perform well on a meaningful, giving day.

“Knowing how parents can make or break their children, we’ve worked hard on communication growing up and making sure that we’ve got not just a good father-daughter relationship, but a good working relationship,” Leake said.

Benton plays Jefferson (12-6) Thursday at St. Joseph. Lafayette plays at 4:30 p.m. against Savannah (11-1) at St. Joseph as well.

Derek Zimmerman-Guyer can be reached at derek.zguyer@newspressnow.com.