Posted Online: April 05, 2013, 10:21 pm

Crazy opening day for RI, UT softball teams

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By Marc Nesseler, nesseler@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck
Rock Island's catcher Jasmine Ragusi waits for the throw to home as United Township's Natalie Brown (3) scores a run in the fifth inning Friday April 5, 2013.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck
Rock Island's De'Aysha Walker (10) is greeted by fellow teammates after hitting a home run in the seventh inning against United Township Friday April 5, 2013.
Rock Island junior Hailey Feldhahn and freshman Bri Hart didn't want to have to spend six days thinking about their odd and unfortunate end to the first game of their Western Big 6 Conference-opening softball doubleheader Friday afternoon.

So, on the heels of that 9-8 victory by United Township, the Rocks' leadoff and No. 9 hitter keyed a second-game comeback that left the two teams tied at 4 in a game suspended by darkness after four innings.

It will resume at 4:30 p.m. Thursday back at RI's Frances Willard field, moved from UT where a nonconference game was to be played on that day.

"I was real disappointed, but I have teammates that helped pick me back up," said Feldhahn, who hit her second home run of the day to set the stage for Hart's fourth-inning RBI single that left the second game knotted for a few days.

Feldhahn's disappointed stemmed from the bottom of the seventh of UT's opening win. Down by one after De'Aysha Walker's three-run homer, Hart worked a two-out walk to bring up Feldhahn, who had a double and a homer earlier in that game. Feldhahn worked a full count, but started down to first on ball 3, which led to Hart mistakenly trotting to second.

"I credit 'Gus' (UT catcher Mackenzie Gustafson) and our bench for being alert," UT coach John Alonzo said of pitcher Heather Johnson getting their gist and getting the pickoff at first for the game-ending out. "We knew there were three balls."

Alonzo admitted that the Panthers were trying to pitch around Feldhahn, wary of her power.
"Both Bri and our first-base coach came back to the dugout and said, 'I screwed up; I thought it was ball 4.' I can live with that," said RI coach Steve Ebner.

With UT building a 4-0 lead after three innings of game 2, Feldhahn and Hart made quick amends. Feldhahn and classmate Jasmine Ragusi hit home runs in the third inning, and Hart drove in Walker in the fourth to complete the comeback.

Thus, no need to worry about spending days worrying about how to come from behind.

"Actually, I'm kind of relieved that it's tied" when the game was stopped, said Alonzo. "We hit the ball well, but we don't bash the ball like they do. We're going to have to manufacture runs."

The Rocks (2-4, 0-1) had six home runs in the 11 innings of WB6 play – three by Ragusi, two by Feldhahn and one by Walker. Plus, Ebner says he has three others in the top six of his lineup with home-run power.

"I've coached for 31 years and I've never seen a team hit six home runs in one doubleheader," said Ebner, who will be inducted tonight in the state's football Hall of Fame, thus having the games moved to Friday.

And to think it wasn't even a full doubleheader.

It should make for an interesting finish on Thursday. UT, having finished only its second game (1-1) and with no game until Thursday, had an offense that was just as impressive.

Leadoff hitter Brooke Prior went 4-for-5 in the first game and added a third double on the day in the nightcap. Courtney Markin was 4-for-7 with two doubles. Heather Johnson, Megan Ballegeer, Natalie Brown, Sydnee Vallejo and Gustafson each had two hits, with the Panthers totaling 20 hits in 11 innings.

UT also proved to be opportunistic, chalking up eight unearned runs in the opener and another two in the second game.