Motivation hits Rangers, who stick it to VikesApril 19, 2013
By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor
BRETZVILLE — Adria Giesler did it for the sticker.
The Forest Park junior could have hopped out of the path of a pitch that careened toward her body Thursday evening at Bretzville. Either way, she was going to get on base after the wayward pitch in the second inning. But Giesler knows full well how accepting bruises strangely vitalizes her and her Ranger teammates.
That’s the rule in Ranger softball: Get hit by a pitch, get a sticker. The miniature prize gets placed on a chart that assistant coach Kelly Schroering keeps to track other defensive, baserunning and fielding gems.
So with the pitch screaming her way, Giesler didn’t budge. Plunk, right in the side.
“Technically, I could have not gotten hit by the pitch, because it would have been the fourth ball anyway,” Giesler said. “But Kel tells us to wear it like we own it, so I just wore the ball.”
It kindled something greater, just as the Rangers want it to.
An inning earlier, Forest Park loaded the bases with one out and didn’t score. When Giesler got on to lead the next inning, the Rangers pounced for two runs that frame. Then two the next. And four in their next at-bat. Erasing a first-inning deficit to whip Barr-Reeve 9-2, Forest Park proved how one erratic pitch and undying spunk can leave an opponent flustered and beaten.
Maybe it’s the rarity of the hit-by-pitch sticker, but the Rangers say there’s just something about that one that practically transforms them into different people. Before Giesler absorbed the hit, typical rah-rah prattle circulated within the Ranger dugout.
After Giesler was hit, borderline chaos.
Ambient chatter suddenly crescendoed to banshee-esque screaming. The orchestra of shouts and howls sounded as if the Rangers were trying to call wild animals as they cheered for each successive teammate who stepped up to hit.
It may be more effective than simply creating an entertaining show. A similar scenario occurred a few days earlier, when the Rangers (4-5) were locked in a tie game with South Knox in the eighth inning. With a runner already on first base, Ericka Lange was hit by a pitch.
In other words, the cue to get rowdy.
“This dugout erupted so loud,” Ranger coach Glenn Knies said. “And the shortstop and third baseman from South Knox looked into the dugout and looked at each other as if maybe we weren’t right.”
In the mayhem that followed, Emily Gutgsell poked the game-winning single that sewed up a 9-8 upset of the Class 2A No. 8 Spartans. Gutgsell added another RBI Thursday, when the Rangers replicated the nine-run output minus the tension, with hurler Ericka Lange tossing four scoreless innings after the first and reliever Amy Bockelman pitching to the minimum in the sixth and seventh.
Kayla Smith and Katelyn Roos drove in runs to knot the game in the second inning and Giesler smacked a two-out, two-run single the next frame. Forest Park piled on four more in the fourth, when Amanda Lange ripped a two-run hit after Mariah Morgan led off the inning by — yup — getting hit by a pitch.
Roos was a solo act in causing a nuisance, too.
She beat out an infield hit in the first inning, and on back-to-back plays in the fourth, she and Smith both bunted their way on base and prompted Viking throwing errors in the process, too.
Roos tripled in the seventh inning, and though the Rangers didn’t need an extra run at that point, Roos concocted it anyway.
With two outs and Bockelman at bat facing an 0-2 count, Roos twice strayed off third base far enough to where Barr-Reeve catcher Henley Dant considered a throw down. It dented the Vikings’ rhythm enough for Bockelman to earn four successive balls. Then, Roos came trotting home when Barr-Reeve couldn’t handle Gutgsell’s grounder.
“It’s fun to do that,” Roos said. “Coach was actually telling me to do it, and I think the big reason we do it is just to get in their heads, because it kind of messes them up. And it’s also good practice for if we really need to do that in other games where it’s really crucial to get that run.”
That maneuver could just be sticker worthy. There’s allegedly a prize down the road after earning so many stickers, though Schroering has “never really told us yet,” Giesler said. “It’s got to be something good.”
At the very least, the Rangers’ enthusiasm has already grossed something important: a rebound after they lost five of their first six games, and the chance to inch back to .500 tonight when Mount Vernon visits.
“When we were 1-5, the kids came to practice and things didn’t really change too much. We talked a little bit and then we had the one game against Perry (Central) the other night where we really played well and we were showing what we could do, and the kids have just jump-started from there,” Knies said.
“It’s the kids. The kids have been really, really great the last week, week and a half. Everybody’s buying in to what we’re trying to do. The kids are having fun. The yelling,” Knies continued, nodding toward the dugout, “this is every game. I enjoy coaching when you have a group like this.”
Contact Brendan Perkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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