Graham blanks Oilers twice
The Rockford varsity softball team seems to be peaking just in time for a post-season run as illustrated by a doubleheader sweep of the Mount Pleasant Oilers on Saturday, May 22. The Oilers traveled to Rockford gushing about their 26-1 record, but had to trickle back home after being shut out twice by Tricia Graham and the Rams by scores of 2-0 and 3-0.
In the opening game of the twin bill, Graham dazzled the Oilers and allowed just one hit, a sixth-inning single, while striking out 18 to match her career high for a seven-inning game set just 10 days earlier.
For the first four innings, the Rams were unable to get anything going offensively, but in the fifth inning, junior shortstop Alli Hickox drew a one-out walk and scored on a key two-out single by freshman leftfielder Hannah Pattok to break the scoreless tie. The Rams added an insurance run in the sixth, as Lauren Pasciak raced all the way around from first base after Peyton Wells’ single to left was booted, allowing Pasciak to score.
In game two, the Rams jumped out to a quick lead as Pasciak reached on a dropped third strike and scored on Wells’ one-out triple to center. Rockford had a golden opportunity pass them by in the third inning, when three consecutive hits failed to produce a run, and it looked like it may prove costly, as the Oilers mounted their first serious threat of the day when they had back-to-back hits leading off the fourth and got runners to second and third base with nobody out.
Senior catcher Karli Showers then made the defensive play of the year so far as she raced back toward the screen and made a spectacular diving catch of a pop foul right against the fence for the first out of the inning. Graham took advantage of the situation by striking out the next two batters to escape the inning with no damage.
Rockford then added two runs in the sixth to give Graham some breathing room. An error started the inning, and then Graham laced a sharp single to right. With one out and the bases loaded, Hickox came through with a single to the opposite field to plate one runner, and another scored on a wild pitch. That was plenty, as Graham completed the double-dip shutout by striking out two more in the seventh to seal it. In game two, she finished with 12 strikeouts and no walks and just four hits.
The Rams host West Ottawa on Monday, May 24 to complete the OK Red schedule. They then play in Lowell on Thursday, May 27, and host Whitehall on Friday, May 28 in preparation for the district tournament on Saturday, June 5 at Northview, where the Rams open against the host Wildcats at 12:15 p.m., hoping to turn the tables on the team that knocked them out of the tournament last year.