Scoring three runs in the fourth inning, Washington softball opened conference play at home with a victory Tuesday.

The Lady Jays (2-2, 1-0) defeated Ft. Zumwalt South (2-3, 0-1), 3-1, at Lakeview Park for the Washington home opener as the team began its quest to defend last season’s Gateway Athletic Conference Central championship.

Ellie Quaethem not only pitched the complete game for the Lady Jays, but also belted a solo home run to lead off the fourth inning, tying the score at 1-1 after the Lady Bulldogs had pushed across their only run in the top of the third.

A single up the middle from Emma Piar-Shaw and a bunt attempt that went for a single by Emma Vodnansky then set the table for the rest of the inning and Payton Dubberke put down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third with two outs.

Allie Huddleston’s pop-up to the right side of the infield made for an awkward play for Zumwalt South first baseman Jenny Herling behind the bag and resulted in an error. With heads-up baserunning, Washington was able to bring both runners home and take the lead.

“If we don’t have those bunts go down, we don’t score there and we may still be playing 1-1,” Head Coach Phil King said. “One thing I’m really emphasizing with the girls is the small ball. We can’t just sit on home runs and doubles. We need to work as a team to get people into scoring position for that single or error to push people across.

In seven innings pitched, Quaethem allowed one run on six hits with seven strikeouts. After Washington pulled ahead, Quaethem held the Lady Bulldogs to just two hits, both singles, and walked none through the final three innings.

One play in the seventh inning wound up being memorable as Zumwalt South center fielder Jenna Dickey led off the top half with a foul ball that was seemingly headed toward the visiting bench before taking an abrupt turn directly in front of Washington first baseman Jessie Huxol in fair territory.

“That about ties a record for the most foul ground ball that I’ve seen come back in,” King said. “The only thing that’s about the same is one time I was coaching and saw someone hit a rock that was about 5 feet foul and it 90-degree angled back fair. It had a lot of English. Jessie had a hard time picking it up. That was a very weird play. It even came uphill a little bit.”

Huxol was able to quickly hurl the ball to Huddleston covering first base for the first out. Another ground ball and a strikeout brought the game to its conclusion.

Washington totaled eight hits in the game, but wasn’t able to string them together outside the fourth inning.

“That girl had us a little off balance,” King said of Zumwalt South pitcher Bri Dunn. “There’s girls who throw too hard and girls who throw just a little bit below the hitting speed. They’re both effective because they mess up your timing and she was one that was just below the hitting speed and had us off balance, and their girls were making good plays.”

Quaethem added a single to go along with her home run, finishing the day 2-3 at the plate.

Piar-Shaw and Vodnansky both went 2-3 as well. Vodnansky doubled and singled while Piar-Shaw connected for a pair of singles.

Huxol doubled and Caitlyn Vodnansky added a single.

Huddleston was hit by a pitch.

Dunn took the loss in the circle for Zumwalt South. She pitched six innings, allowing three runs, one earned, with no walks and two strikeouts.

Katie Light led the Zumwalt South offense with three singles and a run scored.

Herling singled twice and Halle Benskin doubled with an RBI.

The Lady Jays continued conference play at home Thursday against GAC Central newcomer Timberland and are next in action Tuesday at Ft. Zumwalt North at 4:30 p.m.