Graham strikes out 17 in loss
A lot of great softball was played last Thursday at Grandville High School as two of the OK Red’s best teams battled to a split of a doubleheader as conference play got under way.
The Rams of Rockford scored three runs in a decisive fifth-inning rally in game two. They then held on to win the nightcap 5-3 to earn the split after Grandville scored the only run of game one in the first extra inning to win an epic pitcher’s duel 1-0 despite 17 strikeouts at the hands of Ram pitcher Tricia Graham.
Grandville pitcher Becca Smith—who will go to Grand Rapids Community College next year and play softball alongside Rockford catcher Karli Showers—was outstanding in game one. She allowed just two Rockford hits in eight innings, while walking two and hitting one batter with a pitch. Only one Ram runner reached third base in game one. Lauren Pasciak doubled to the gap in left-center to lead off the game and advanced to third on a wild pitch.
Then with one out, Peyton Wells was hit by a pitch and promptly stole second without a throw, as the Bulldogs elected to let her have the base rather than risk the speedy Pasciak sneaking home on the play. The strategy paid off, as Smith proceeded to get her team out of the jam with a pair of strikeouts to end the inning, stranding runners at second and third for the Rams.
That was the best scoring chance the Rams would see in game one. Meanwhile, Graham was baffling Grandville hitters with her wide assortment of pitches, featuring her lethal rise ball, and racked up an incredible 14 strikeouts in the first five innings. The only Bulldog out that was not a strikeout in the first five innings was on a bunt attempt that Graham fielded cleanly and threw to second baseman Katie Chapin, who was covering the bag at first for the out.
Grandville’s winning rally started with a one-out single by Kristi Jo Streeter that was perfectly placed just over the pitcher, but out of reach of the shortstop and second baseman. Liz Nelson sacrifice bunted to advance the runner, but found herself safe at first also after an error on the play. Then Kara Hess, Grandville’s talented shortstop, laid down another perfect bunt and beat it out for a hit to load the bases. Smith, on a one-two pitch, laced a single into left field, and Streeter raced home to end the game. The game-winning hit was Smith’s third hit of the game.
In game two, Rockford showed its ability to bounce back by jumping out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first inning. Pasciak, who had four hits and a walk in the twin bill, led off with a crisp single up the middle. After Showers laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt, Wells singled to right. Pasciak was held at third, and with two out, junior shortstop Alli Hickox ripped a double to drive in both runners and stake Graham to an early lead.
The Bulldogs tied it up in the fourth inning as they put together three hits in the inning. Graham escaped further damage by striking out the last two batters in the inning with runners on second and third to keep the score even at 2-2.
The Rams regained control of the game in the fifth inning. Freshman Hannah Pattok led off with a base on balls and advanced to second on a wild pitch. With one out, senior Morgan Ruchty laid down a perfect bunt single, and when the throw got past the first baseman, Pattok scored.
Pasciak followed with her third single of the game, and Showers followed that with her third perfect sacrifice bunt of the game. That set the stage for Wells, who came through with a single to right field that scored two runs and gave the Rams a 5-2 lead.
Grandville battled right to the end, and made things very interesting in the seventh inning, as they took advantage of a one-out error by the Rams. With one on and one out, Becca Smith, who had three hits in each game of the doubleheader, doubled to score one and cut the lead to 5-3.
With two outs and the tying run at the plate in the form of junior pitcher Jessica Wood, Pasciak saved the day defensively for the Rams as she raced into deep left-center field to snare Wood’s long drive that seemed destined to be an extra base hit. Pasciak’s grab ended the game and the long doubleheader ended with both teams at 1-1 in the OK Red race.
Both of these fine teams figure to be in the thick of the race, along with last year’s state champion Hudsonville, perennial power Jenison and ever-dangerous East Kentwood.
Come out and support your Rockford Lady Rams softball team. This week the team travels to Muskegon for a doubleheader on Tuesday, April 27, and then they will play in the prestigious Northview Tournament on Saturday, May 1 along with many of the area’s top teams.