EDGINGTON -- Having clinched a share of the Three Rivers South Division softball crown this past weekend, the Sherrard Tigers were ready to finish that part of their business on Tuesday.|
With Rockridge needing to win Tuesday's game, then win its remaining conference games if it wanted to earn a title share, the Tigers took the Rockets' best shots for five innings, then fired back with a seven-run sixth that sealed the deal in a 14-6 victory that caps a 12-0 TRAC South title run.
Unlike the teams' first meeting, a more pitcher-oriented outing at Sherrard, offense was the key in the rematch as the two rivals combined for 23 hits. Led by leadoff hitter Jaryn Kinder (4-for-4) and No. 2 batter Tori Redpath (3-for-5, three RBIs), the 23-3 Tigers have scored 248 runs -- an average of 9.5 per game.
"I feel like my job is to get on base,'' said Kinder, "get the hits started, so that (her teammates) can string them together behind me."
"Everyone was on (Tuesday),'' said Redpath. "We knew this would be a battle with the hitting, but it seems like when they got a rally going, we had an answer for it.''
That was perfectly displayed in the top of the sixth after Rockridge (23-10, 8-2 TRAC South) had closed the gap to 6-5 on a two-out, two-run home run by Lexi DeKeyrel (2-for-2), a shot which ended the day for Sherrard starting pitcher Spenser Strandgard.
In response, the Tigers cut loose against Rocket hurler Jenna Carroll (7-2), sending 10 batters to the plate to go up 13-5 as Riley Strandgard belted a two-run home run and Kodee Mital slugged a two-run double to go with Redpath's RBI double.
"I wanted to see if they'd slip up,'' said Strandgard, who otherwise was walked four times, "and I took advantage of it. It's a good feeling to go 12-0, but we know it's not over and that we've got regionals to get through now.''
Rachel Winston relieved Spenser Strandgard, putting out the fire in the fifth and finishing up with five strikeouts to earn her first save. Strandgard allowed three earned runs with five Ks to improve to 7-0. "She came in at a key point in the game,'' Tiger coach Mike DeLoose said of Winston.
Earlier, Sherrard went up 3-0 before Rockridge sliced it to one run on Michaela Stoneking's two-run homer in the last of the third. The Tigers got those two back on Redpath's two-run double, adding another run to take a 6-3 lead.
While the Rockets did show the ability to stand toe-to-toe with Sherrard in terms of offense, their defense proved to be costly, as six errors helped fuel the Tigers' fire.
"On the offensive side, we did a nice job,'' said Rockridge coach John Nelson, whose club could possibly face Sherrard again at next week's Class 2A Rockridge Regional. "We put runs up, and we were pressuring them. But, we didn't hold up our end on the defensive side. We just didn't come to play defense, and games are won on the defensive end.
"We were down at Quincy Notre Dame this weekend (for the QND Cluster), and we played phenomenal ball there, some of our best of the year. I hoped we could take that into tonight. But, we had a ton of teachable moments -- gainers, I call them. We gained knowledge, confidence and ability."
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