Rangers play with confidence, advance to semisMay 23, 2018
By JONATHAN SAXON
BRETZVILLE — Beware of any “Ranger Danger” alerts that should be out on full display after Tuesday evening’s softball game between the Forest Park Rangers and the North Posey Vikings.
The defense was solid throughout the game, the bats came alive when they needed them most, and collectively the girls looked like a force to be reckoned with when the cleats met the dirt. Forest Park put on a total team performance in front of the home crowd at Bretzville as the Rangers defeated the Vikings 8-3 and moved into the semifinal round of the sectional tournament.
Forest Park coach Kelly Schroering praised how her girls embodied the “next man up” mentality when it came to covering for the few errors they committed on the defensive end.
“Even when we overthrew the ball we were ready,” said Schroering. “We talked al ot about how making the second play is what we need. That was important for us. Taylor (Bayer) did what she needed to do and allowed the defense to make plays behind her. It was a total team effort.”
A pitcher’s duel was held across the first two innings, as the Rangers and Vikings found themselves swinging against a brick wall whenever they stepped to the plate. Bayer retired the first three batters she faced, and her counterpart, sophomore Megan Brenton, returned the favor in the bottom of the first via a triplet of strikeouts.
North Posey was able to show a little bend in Forest Park’s Green Wall in the second inning when sophomore center fielder Anne Stegall hit a single, then advanced to second base after the batter behind her—senior first baseman Evelyn Mauer—hit into a ground out play at first.
After the Rangers scored out number two against senior right fielder Mackenzie Atkins, freshman third baseman Jenna Heath hit a single out to center field which appeared to have enough juice to score Stegall. However senior Lanette Blume fielded the would-be hit and cannoned the ball from the outfield to sophomore catcher Macie Zink, who tagged Stegall out at the plate to close the top of the second.
But the Rangers still struggled to find their swing, as the bottom of the second inning proved to be a repeat of the first: three batters up, three batters down.
However, things took a turn for the positive (and the strange) for Forest Park in the third inning. First, Bayer made quick work of North Posey’s lineup at the top of the inning, only giving the batters pitches that would turn into easy defense. Blume and senior left fielder Sam Jarboe struck out, but senior first baseman Sara Helming was able to make contact and take first base. Zink hit another single to put runners on first and second.
Then something strange and possibly never-before-seen in a ball game occurred during sophomore shortstop Kylie Giesler’s at-bat. After a 2-1 pitch, Gielser took off thinking that she had gotten ball four and drawn a walk. It was in fact ball three and the home plate umpire called her back to the batter’s box.
But before that happened, Helming and Zink advanced to their next base while the umps were settling the confusion. Since base runners have the ability to make a run for it at their discretion, they were never instructed to go back to first and second as Giesler went back to the batter’s box. The umpires never called for a stop to the game and the scenario went into the books as two stolen bases.
Schroering said there were no trick plays being called from the dugout, but it’s difficult to imagine that she was upset with the result of the curious action. Especially once Geisler connected with Brenton on the very next pitch and drove in Helming and Zink for the Ranger’s first two runs.
“The defense wasn’t paying attention to them,” said Schroering. “It almost seems like we tried a trick play, which we did not.”
But the Viking response was swift, as North Posey tied the game at two-all in the fourth inning with a home run from Mauer that just barely made it over the fence. The long ball also scored Brenton, who took a wild pitch in the helmet to get on base.
The equality did not last for long. First, sophomore designated hitter Mayson VanMeter hit a single. After two quick outs for Jarboe and senior third baseman Taryn Prechtel, the Rangers found themselves the beneficiaries of back-to-back doubles. The first came from Blume and scored VanMeter. The second came from Zink, which scored Helming and Blume. The four-run explosion concluded with a single from Giesler to score Zink and give Forest Park a 6-2 lead.
The Rangers scored twice more before the top of the seventh inning. In the bottom of the fifth, Prechtel hit a sacrifice-fly to score sophomore second baseman Kennedy Sermersheim. And in the sixth inning Zink got hold of a pitch and sent it over the fence with ease.
“By the time I rounded first base I looked out and it was already over,” she said. “It boosted my confidence, but then again it was a line drive that happened to go over (the fence).”
The Vikings tried to make things interesting in the seventh inning. Two of the first three batters went down quick, but junior pinch hitter Korryn Englert was able to draw a walk. Sophomore infielders Emily Abernathy and Rylie Farr each hit singles to load the bases. Freshman catcher Kennedy Hallam hit a third straight single to score Englert, but Bayer struck out Brenton to pull the curtain on North Posey’s season.
Bayer finished with two strikeouts and two walks while allowing three runs on seven hits. Zink finished three-for-four with three RBIs and the homer. Giesler was two-for-four with three driven in. Prechtel and Blume each had an RBI.
Brenton finished with 11 strikeouts, 10 hits, eight runs (four earned), and one walk. Mauer finished one-for-two with two RBsI. Hallam was one-for-four with and an RBI. Heath and Farr each had a pair of hits.
Forest Park will face South Spencer tonight at 8 p.m. in the semifinal game, and Schroering thinks that the opening win is just what the doctor ordered for helping the team trust in their play and look ahead with confidence toward the next game.
“We’re a good team and when we believe it, I think we do play up to that level,” she said. “I hope we take away that confidence that we can compete with these teams. It’s not easy from here on out, but we’re capable of winning.”
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