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  • Val T.

Despite opening loss, Rochester softball encourages Coleman

Wilson triples in first varsity AB, later adds 2 doubles


Sports Editor, RTC

Rochester softball coach Jim Coleman wants his team to be challenged, and they are not waiting for the challenges to start.

Their first opponent at Fansler Field Thursday was Mishawaka, the reigning Northern Lakes Conference champion.

Starting six freshmen, the Lady Zs led 2-0 after two innings before Mishawaka came back to win 8-2.

Aubrey Wilson, one of the freshman six, had three hits – a triple and two doubles – and scored a run, and another freshman, Jadyn Field, doubled and scored. Brailyn Hunter had an RBI on a first inning squeeze bunt.

“This was an ideal game for us,” Coleman said. “We saw a good team, and we were pushed. I really like what we saw tonight. … For one, replacing five quality seniors from last season, for them to come in knowing that the freshman nerves and everything, I thought that they settled down and came out ready to play, and I’m excited for this season.”

Mishawaka junior pitcher Camila Ramirez-Quijada walked none and struck out 14 to earn the win, and she became unhittable after Wilson’s leadoff double in the bottom of the third with her team trailing 2-1.

Wilson subsequently stole third, but Ramirez-Quijada struck out Hunter, Bria Rensberger and Makhia Harding in order to escape the jam.

“That’s really big,” Coleman said. “All we needed was contact, and we had a couple bunt opportunities that we didn’t get down there to push over that third run, which kind of changes things a little bit. Because at that time, they were still chasing.” 

Sophia Hoover’s RBI single in the fourth tied it, and Mishawaka scored twice in the fifth to go ahead for good on Brynn Lewinski’s RBI single and Sophia Hoover’s RBI fielder’s choice.

Wilson doubled with two outs in the bottom of the fifth but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a triple, and Rochester never got another runner in scoring position.

The Lady Cavemen tacked on three more runs off reliever Mia Howdeshell in the sixth. Emma Hammond’s RBI groundout to second, Khloe Hershey’s RBI single in the hole between third and short and a run-scoring passed ball that allowed Hershey to score from third were part of that rally.

Holly Shine’s sacrifice fly in the seventh completed the scoring.

While Ramirez-Quijada walked none, Rochester pitchers Rensberger and Howdeshell combined to walk seven, hit two batters and throw two wild pitches.

“After the first time through (the order), I thought they were really patient and made Bria work out there,” Coleman said.

In addition to Wilson, Hunter, Rensberger, Harding and Field, the other freshman is Gabby Medina, who went hitless in two at-bats.

Wilson started at shortstop but finished the game at catcher. Hunter moved from right field to shortstop. Rensberger played the final two innings at first base after spending the first five innings in the circle. Harding was the designated player. Field started at catcher but later moved to third base. Medina played both third base and second base.

Two sophomores – left fielder Audrey Miller and second baseman-right fielder Mylee Heinzmann – also were part of the lineup.

Miller and junior center fielder Darah Strasser were the only players who played the entire game in the same position.

“The one huge positive about this team is that we have a lot of great athletes that can play multiple positions,” Coleman said. “So to free up Jadyn from behind the plate and to bring in Wilson. … Wilson did a nice job at shortstop. She can play just about anywhere. Same thing with Mylee. We have a lot of versatile kids that I can really move around to give us different options and to force the opponent (see) a different look as well.”

Mishawaka, who went 18-6 last season, is a new addition to the schedule. So are games against John Glenn, Twin Lakes and Jimtown.

Plus, Rochester will maintain its rivalry with Tippecanoe Valley, a reigning Class 3A sectional champion, even though the schools are no longer in the same conference. Rochester also kept nonconference games against old standbys like Pioneer, Carroll (Flora), Winamac, Logansport, Eastern (Greentown) and South Bend Clay.

“That was one of things going into the season,” Coleman said. “I knew we were going to be young, but I really wanted to challenge these kids. … We added eight more games than what we had last season. We got into the sectional last season and got bumped early. My goal coming into the season was to push these kids and face hopefully stiffer competition and really challenge them so when we get into the conference and postseason that we are ready.”

Mishawaka 8, Rochester 2

Mishawaka 001 123 1 – 8 12 3

Rochester 110 000 0 – 2 4 2

WP – Camila Ramirez-Quijada (7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 14 K)

LP – Bria Rensberger (5 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 1 HBP, 5 K)

2B – Aubrey Wilson 2 (RHS), Jadyn Field (RHS)

3B – Aubrey Wilson (RHS)

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