RI gets first softball sweep of UT since 2008

Posted Online: April 12, 2014, 8:45 pm
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By Marc Nesseler, nesseler@qconline.com
EAST MOLINE – The United Township Panthers came into the opening Saturday of Western Big 6 Conference softball thinking title defense. By the end of the afternoon, it was the Rock Island Rocks with high hopes of title contention.

For the first time since 2008, the Rocks swept a softball doubleheader from the Panthers, winning 4-2 and 8-1 at UT's diamond.

In fact, Rocky catcher Jasmine Ragusi was enthusiastic about facing the WB6 defending champ, and winners of three of the last four conference titles, to start off league play.

"Why not push us to do our best?" Ragusi said after going 2-for-3 and driving in two runs in the second game. "Everyone had doubted us coming in."

De'Aysha Walker, who also had a big second game with a double, a triple and three RBIs, recognizes the importance of getting off to a 2-0 WB6 though the Rocks are 8-6 overall.

"These two wins mean a lot," Walker said. "This is great for us. It gives us more confidence."

UT, which falls to 3-5, changes it focus from competing for another conference title to finding a way to get better.

"We're not worried about that," UT coach John Alonzo said of what needs to happen for the Panthers to have a title shot in the final four weeks of WB6 play. "We're worried about getting better. When the day started, we talked about that. But now, we worry about figuring it out."

UT got stellar pitching from junior Heather Johnson (2-3) in the opener, giving up just three hits. However, the Panthers committed four errors which led to all of RI's four runs being unearned.

"That's the best she's pitched all year," Alonzo said of Johnson, "maybe the best in a couple of years. But we didn't play defense behind her and didn't hit the ball for her."

Conversely, the Rocks played good defense behind freshman Alex Sierens (5-2), and offered just enough base runners to make UT pay for its mistakes. The lone RBI for Rocky game from No. 9 hitter Brooke Hart, in the sixth, to make it 2-0.

Sierens credited her performance to learning from her loss to Geneseo earlier in the week, as well as the leadership from her catcher, Ragusi.

"I worked harder at my next pitching lesson," Sierens said of the fallout of that 16-5 loss to the Leafs. "I worked on keeping the ball low. ... Jasmine gives our pitchers more confidence. She helps us get out of sticky situations."

UT had runners in scoring position in four of the seven innings. Sierens fanned five and walked two, with Morgan McCready getting a save by getting out of a seventh-inning jam.

The Rocks continued that confidence in the second game. They scored two in each of the first two innings to match their first-game run total. They doubled it over the course of the final five frames thanks to the bats of Walker, Ragusi and Ashlyn Mumma, who was 3-for-4 with two RBIs. That allowed them to make up for four errors of their own in game two.

"You've got to win it out there in this conference," RI coach Steve Ebner said in reference to defensive play.

They survived to come away 2-0 in the WB6. And doing so against the defending champs and a team against which sweeps have come few and far between leaves the Rocks confidently fielding thoughts of title hopes.


Local events heading

  Today is Thursday, July 31, the 212th day of 2014. There are 153 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: A corps of surgeons now occupies the new hospital quarters at the Garrison Hospital on the Rock Island Arsenal. A fence has been installed to enclose the prison hospital.
1889 -- 125 years ago: B. Winter has let a contract to Christ Schreiner for a two story brick building with a double store front on the south side of 3rd Avenue just west of 17th Street. The estimated cost was $4,500.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Germany sent simultaneous ultimatums to Russia and France, demanding that Russia suspend mobilization within 12 hours and demanding that France inform Germany within 18 hours. In the case of war between Germany and Russia, France would remain neutral.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Civil service offices at the post office and the Rock Island Arsenal were swamped as more than 700 youths sought 15 machinist apprenticeships at the Arsenal.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Last night, American Legion Post 246 in Moline figuratively handed over the trousers to a female ex-Marine and petticoat rule began. Olga Swanson, of Moline, was installed as the first woman commander of the post .
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Illinois Quad City Civic Center captured the excitement and interest of a convention of auditorium managers this weekend in Reno, Nev. Bill Adams, civic center authority chairman, said the 10,000-seat arena planned for downtown Moline has caught the eye of construction firms, suppliers, management teams and concession groups.

(More History)