One swing of the bat could have made Wednesday's nonconference softball tilt between area powers Sherrard and Moline a much different affair than the actual outcome.|
But after a big defensive play enabled the Maroons to get out of a bases-loaded jam while holding a four-run lead, they turned around and tacked on five more runs to put the game out of reach and earn an 11-2 win at Bob Seitz Field in a matchup of 2012 state trophy-winners.
A pair of two-out, sixth-inning walks issued by Moline relief pitcher Alaina Hofmann loaded the bases with the Tigers' junior slugger Riley Strandgard coming to the plate. But instead of Strandgard getting the chance for a game-tying grand slam, Maroon catcher Jordan de los Reyes caught Rachel Winston off third base for the inning-ending out.
"They were right in it at that point,'' said Moline coach Mark Gerlach. "People are going to look at the final score being 11-2 and think we killed them, but there were some key spots where it could've swung either way.''
Another of those "key spots'' came in the top of the fourth. After Kodee Mital doubled, Macy Hutchinson delivered a two-out single to bring the Tigers (8-4) to within 4-2. But on the same play, Moline first baseman Morgan Murphy threw a perfect strike to de los Reyes to catch Winston, who was trying to close the gap to one run.
"We were one swing away,'' said Sherrard coach Mike DeLoose, "but it didn't happen. That's part of the game.''
After dodging the sixth-inning bullet, the Maroons (12-2) ensured that they would avenge an earlier 10-4 loss to Sherrard by sending 10 batters to the plate in the bottom of the frame and scoring five runs, with winning pitcher Cassie Shaw's two-run double the decisive blow.
Offense was not in short supply for Moline, which rattled off 16 hits to give Sherrard starter Winston (4-1) her first loss. Shaw and de los Reyes (3-for-4) each drove in three runs, and Alexis Jenkins and Miranda Marion each had two-hit, two-RBI outings.
"When runners are on base, I try and do whatever's easiest to get them home; I'm not worrying about getting on base,'' said de los Reyes, who has driven in 28 runs in 14 games. "We didn't want to lose to Sherrard twice. We were focused, and ready to play them.''
The Tigers struck first when Strandgard's opening-inning sacrifice fly scored Alex Ward, but the Maroons responded with three runs in their half of the first, and never trailed again as Shaw (7-2) worked four innings of five-strikeout ball before giving way to Hofmann.
"Moline is a team that will push you hard and make you play at your best level,'' said DeLoose, who got two hits each from Hutchinson and Winston. "This does help us, since we're still trying to find our groove. I think by next week, we should be there.''
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