Coleman’s 5 RBIs, Howdeshell’s pitching lead Rochester to 2-0 start
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
The Rochester softball team has embraced the outdoors and gotten off to a 2-0 start.
Those two things might be related.
Kylie Coleman highlighted a 10-run third inning with a three-run triple, and Mia Howdeshell took a no-hitter into the fourth inning as the Lady Zs rolled to a 16-6 win in five innings over Plymouth in their home opener at damp, frigid Fansler Field Thursday.
Rochester had nine hits and also took advantage of 11 walks and five hit batters from Plymouth pitchers Kayla Johnson and Aubrey Ferguson.
Rochester led 15-4 after four innings before Julia Kinney led off with a single to break up Howdeshell’s no-hit bid. Kasi Harner’s pinch-hit double chased Howdeshell from the circle.
Emma Sells relieved and allowed Taya Wagner’s RBI fielder’s choice grounder and Rylee Mann’s double-play grounder that scored a run and forced a bottom of the fifth.
Sells then ended the game with a bloop single to left to end it in the bottom half.
In addition to Coleman, Kallie Watson went 1 for 1 with two runs scored, Emma Howdeshell went 1 for 1 with an RBI and three runs scored, and Keyton Doran and Darah Strasser each went 2 for 2 from the No. 8 and 9 spots in the batting order, respectively.
Mia Howdeshell also reached three times on two walks and a hit-by-pitch.
“I think that we were more patient and more selective at the plate,” Rochester coach Becky Lee said. “I think that we got a little more warm as the game went on but just our selection and our pitch choice.”
Rochester had only two hits in their big third inning, but they turned a 2-1 deficit into an 11-2 lead.
The inning included a running-scoring passed ball, three run-scoring wild pitches, bases loaded walks for Strasser and Watson and a bases loaded hit-by-pitch for Emma Howdeshell.
Ferguson was brought in to relieve Johnson. Watching Ferguson warm up, Coleman sensed that she would be more accurate within the strike zone. She said she knew she was going to get a pitch she would get a hold of.
Coleman then cranked a triple to deep left to score Strasser, Watson and Emma Howdeshell.
Coleman is the third different Rochester player to have a five-RBI game in the season’s first week. Sydney Haughs had six RBIs, and Emma Howdeshell had five RBIs in a 25-11 win over Triton Tuesday.
She said it has helped that the team has been able to practice outdoors since the start of practice on March 7. She said the team got off to a “rocky” start offensively last year, but she said the earlier outdoor practices have been helpful.
She said the players know they can trust Lee and assistant coach Abbie Overmyer since they both have NCAA Division I playing experience, and that has led to a closer bond.
“Our practices have been super good, and we are bonding well as a team,” Coleman said. “We are not only having fun on and off the field. We have a trust that not a lot of teams have.”
Lee agreed with the importance of outdoor practices. She said all but five to seven practices have been held outdoors.
“It’s super important,” Lee said. “We play in Indiana where the weather is so hit or miss, and unfortunately, it’s been miss a lot lately. So we played in this kind of weather. I was pretty confident today in our ability to not be cold because it felt like 31 (degrees) last week, and I asked the girls, ‘What would you prefer?’ and they were like, ‘Get us outside.’
“So their preference is to be outside, and my preference is to be outside, and it just gets them more reps and it gets them seeing where the ball’s going.”
Plymouth was playing their season opener after an 0-26 season last year. They have not won a softball game since May 16, 2019.
But they jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to a walk, a hit batter and three errors in the first inning off Mia Howdeshell.
Mia Howdeshell then retired eight batters in a nine-batter span. The only baserunner that reached during that span was Lsaya Bohm, and she was thrown out trying to steal in the third after she was hit by a pitch.
She walked three and threw two wild pitches and allowed two more runs in the fourth but still had the no-hitter.
“Triton was the first game in her high school career, so I think that just adds nerves to you,” Lee said. “And she’s been working hard even these last two days. She watched film. She’s worked in practice, and I think it just comes down to a matter of finding herself because that’s who she really is and that’s who we’ve seen all season as far as in practices and stuff, so just finding herself and gaining that confidence.”
Lady Z notes
Lee said she hopes to get Maddie Heinzmann back “soon.” Heinzmann suffered a knee injury that required surgery in a basketball game against Northwestern on Nov. 10. Lee said they are trying to “slowly” push her back into action instead of a more “full-blown” return. Heinzmann hit .324 with 16 RBIs last year and can play both infield and outfield. She plays on a travel team during the offseason with Emma Howdeshell, Coleman, Watson and Haughs.
Overmyer, who is Lee’s older sister, is the varsity assistant. Volunteer assistant coaches include Kyle Rensberger and Alec Holland. Holland is the son of former RHS coach Carla Holland and the brother of former Lady Z players Rylee and Alexa Holland.
Rochester 16, Plymouth 6 (5 innings)
Plymouth 200 22 – 6 2 2
Rochester 10(10) 41 – 16 10 4
WP – Mia Howdeshell (4+ IP, 2 H, 6 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 2 HBP, 4 K)
LP – Kayla Johnson (2 ⅓ IP, 2 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 8 BB, 5 HBP, 0 K)
2B – Harner (PLY)
3B – Kylie Coleman (RHS)
Rochester junior shortstop Emma Howdeshell is 7 for 7 at the plate through two games. She singled and reached three times on hit-by-pitches on Rochester’s 16-6 win over Plymouth in five innings Thursday.