Rams, Eagles, Bulldogs all tied atop OK Red
It took more than 72 hours to complete, but when the dust finally settled on the key softball doubleheader between the Rockford Rams and the two-time defending state champion Hudsonville Eagles, the teams split the thrilling twin bill. The host Rams won Tuesday’s first game 1-0 in walk-off fashion, and the Eagles came out on top in game two by a score of 4-3, in a game which was concluded on Friday after darkness had suspended the extra-inning affair Tuesday evening with the score tied 3-3 after eight exciting innings.
The games featured a match-up of two of the state’s premier pitchers in returning All State players Tricia Graham from Rockford and Sara Driesenga of Hudsonville. Graham uses a tremendous variety of pitches, including a rise, a curve, and a great change-up to go with her fastball. The six-foot-two Driesenga features a powerful fastball and a drop, and she will occasionally throw a screwball and a change-up.
Both hurlers are headed to Division I college programs in the fall. Graham, who has rewritten the pitching record books at Rockford, will pitch at Central Michigan University. Her 435 strikeouts and 29 victories in 2010 are both school records, and she owns many career records and is closing in on many others as well. Driesenga, who will play at the University of Michigan, is a leading candidate for the state’s Miss Softball Award this season after being named the National Junior Softball Player of the Year in 2010 by ESPN Rise and Gatorade’s Michigan Player of the Year each of the past two years.
With such dominant pitchers on the mound, everybody expected that runs would be at a premium. In game one, that was certainly the case. The Eagles had a number of opportunities in the game, but Graham worked her magic and came up with the key outs when she needed them the most, often on strikeouts at critical times. She also got help from her defense.
In the first inning, with two runners on and two out for the Eagles, third baseman Brooke Agers ripped a shot deep to left-center field. Rams left-fielder Carmen Zeboor raced to her left and snared the ball just before it hit the ground and held on as she rolled to keep the Eagles off the scoreboard.
In the sixth inning, Graham escaped potential disaster by using her deceptive rise ball to entice two consecutive Hudsonville batters to pop up harmlessly after they had loaded the bases with just one out.
The Rams threatened on a couple occasions, also, but could not push a run across until the bottom of the seventh inning. Zeboor started the rally with her second single of the game against Driesenga. Speedy junior second baseman Kayla Tykosky then laid down a beautiful bunt and beat the throw to first as Zeboor went to second base. After a chopper to second base moved the runners up one base, freshman Lexi Brown stepped to the plate. Brown delivered with a ground ball up the middle that gave Zeboor the opportunity to charge toward the plate. The Hudsonville second baseman fielded the grounder and her throw came to the plate, but Zeboor never hesitated and slid into home ahead of the tag as the Rams celebrated the huge win in game one.
In game two, the Rams jumped ahead in the second inning when Brown’s single just inside the bag at first scored Tykosky from second base. The pitchers were dominant again as the game went into the seventh inning with the Rams holding that 1-0 lead. Just three outs away from the sweep, Hudsonville showed their experience and scratched across a run in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game and send it into extra innings.
In the top of the eighth, with daylight quickly fading, the Rams rallied after two were out to lead off the inning. Tykosky reached base on another single and moved to second when Rachel Feinauer was hit by a pitch. Brown then hit a sharp grounder to the shortstop, but when her throw got past the first baseman, both runners came around to score to give the Rams a 3-1 lead.
In the bottom of the eighth, however, the Eagles came out swinging and hit several balls hard as Graham began to tire in her 15th inning of work. Driesenga, Agers and Brooke Elliot had big hits for the Eagles, as they tied it up 3-3 with just one out and they still had two runners on base. Graham bore down and got the last two outs via strikeouts and kept the Rams alive for another inning—and three more days, in fact! The darkness had progressed such that it was ruled unsafe to continue, so game two was suspended until Friday, the first open date for both teams.
On Friday, the Rams could not get on the board in the top of the ninth, despite a lead-off walk to Peyton Wells. In the bottom of the inning, All State Hudsonville centerfielder McKenzie Ritzema got on base with a one-out bunt single. The next batter reached on a throwing error, and Ritzema raced all the way around to score the winning run.
The doubleheader split results in a three-way tie atop the OK Red conference. Rockford, Grandville and Hudsonville all split with each other and all currently own identical 8-2 league records with four games to play. The Rams will likely have to win two tough doubleheaders on the road to earn a share of the championship.
Rockford traveled to the lakeshore on Tuesday, May 17 to battle West Ottawa, and finish conference play with a twin bill at Jenison on Monday, May 23. Other games this week include two games at Caledonia on Wednesday and home doubleheaders against West Catholic on Friday, May 20 and against Mount Pleasant on Saturday, May 21. Come out and support your Lady Rams as they pursue an OK Red championship.