M. Howdeshell wins in relief, induces warning track fly to Strasser to end game
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
SOUTH WHITLEY — Rochester junior softball player Sydney Haughs admitted that she doesn’t like hitting outside pitches. She prefers to pull the inside pitch.
But anticipating that Whitko pitcher Maddie Dafforn would pitch her away during the Lady Zs’ Three Rivers Conference opener against the host Lady Wildcats on April 21, she stepped closer to the plate.
Dafforn responded by pitching her inside. She got the pitch that she wanted and drilled the game-tying single to center field. Haughs later scored the game-winning run on Mia Howdeshell’s fielder’s choice grounder, and Rochester pulled out a 7-6 win over the defending sectional champions.
After taking the lead in the top of the seventh, Howdeshell retired the first two batters in the bottom half. Audra Brandenburg then blooped a single to right field.
That brought up Guinny Garr, Whitko’s senior all-TRC catcher and a Kentucky Wesleyan recruit, representing the potential winning run. Garr launched a deep fly to left, but Darah Strasser camped under it at the warning track to end the game and cause a sigh of relief that could be heard 33 miles away in Rochester.
The Lady Zs played errorless defense while Whitko had five errors.
“Defense is huge,” Rochester coach Becky Lee said. “We make a huge emphasis, probably too big of an emphasis at practice on defense. Just getting in front of it, getting the outs, when they give them to us, don’t let up. I’m very proud of our defense of being able to track balls in the outfield, Howdy (Emma Howdeshell) keeping the balls in front of her at shortstop, Kallie behind the plate was incredible tonight blocking balls and keeping it from behind the screen. So all around great job, and it’s something that we’re really putting an emphasis on.”
Whitko scored twice in the sixth to take their first lead at 6-5. Brandenburg scored on a wild pitch, and freshman Addie Garr drove home Guinny Garr with a sacrifice fly to left field.
Dafforn allowed five runs in the first two innings but did not allow a Lady Z as far as second base over the next four innings. She retired Emma Sells and Kallie Watson on grounders to third to start the inning.
Emma Howdeshell then crushed a triple to deep right-center field, and that brought up Haughs, who tied the game.
“I was a little nervous, not going to lie,” Haughs said. “I just knew that I had to get the ball in contact and hopefully error or through a gap or something to make us safe to keep the game going.”
Kylie Coleman then blooped a hit down the right field line, and Haughs, running on contact with two outs, reached third. When the throw to try and get Haughs was late, Coleman reached second.
Mia Howdeshell then hit a low liner to third. Freshman third baseman Cassidy Skinner fielded and decided to throw home, but her throw was late to try and get Haughs, who scored standing to give the Lady Zs the lead.
Strasser pitched the first 2 ⅔ innings, Sells pitched the next 2 ⅓ innings, and Mia Howdeshell pitched the final two innings.
The three pitchers combined to walk seven and hit three batters, but Sells pitched scoreless frames in the fourth and fifth with Rochester holding on to a one-run lead, and Mia Howdeshell forced Whitko to strand three baserunners in the final two innings for the win.
“It feels really good, and I know that it feels really good for the girls because they pulled through, and it’s awesome to be able to go out and get those three outs on defense and then be able to celebrate that and show their hard work,” Lee said. “And I know it feels good for all of us.”
Rochester scored all seven of their runs with two outs.
Coleman had a bloop two-run double that dropped between the right fielder and center fielder in the first inning.
Whitko tied it 2-2 in the bottom half on Dafforn’s RBI grounder and Skinner’s double, her first of three two-base hits for the game.
But the Lady Zs scored three times in the second to re-take a 5-2 lead. Sells hit a tapper about three inches in front of the plate. Guinny Garr pounced and threw to first, but the throw was dropped to allow Strasser to score.
Watson’s triple made it 4-2, and when the throw to try and get Watson at third was wild for an error, Watson got up from her slide and headed home.
Gigi Wilson’s two-run single in the bottom of the third cut the lead to 5-4.
Lady Z notes
Rochester junior Maddie Heinzmann made her season debut at first base. She was the flex player. Heinzmann tore her ACL during a basketball game against Northwestern on Nov. 10 and later had surgery.
“It’s great to have her back,” Lee said. “Just having her presence on the field is awesome.”
Rochester 7, Whitko 6
Rochester 320 000 2 – 7 8 0
Whitko 202 002 0 – 6 7 5
WP – Mia Howdeshell (2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K)
LP – Maddie Dafforn (7 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K)
2B – Kylie Coleman (RHS), Cassidy Skinner 3 (WHI)
3B – Kallie Watson (RHS), Emma Howdeshell (RHS), Guinny Garr (WHI)