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  • Val T.

‘Knee’d to know basis: Rensberger recovers from injury scare, fans 17 as Lady Zs top Lewis Cass


Sports Editor, RTC

The Rochester softball team defeated Lewis Cass 3-2 in a Class 2A, Sectional 37 quarterfinal at Fansler Field Monday. The Lady Zs will play North Judson at 7 p.m. today in the second semifinal. Rochester is 14-9 and has won nine straight games. Wabash will meet Pioneer in the first semifinal at 5 p.m.

The Rochester softball team caught two breaks on one shocking play during their Class 2A, Sectional 37 quarterfinal against Lewis Cass Monday.

Bria Rensberger toughed out the rest.

Jadyn Field drove in the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth with an RBI groundout, and Aubrey Wilson scored twice to lead the Lady Zs to a 3-2 win.

Rensberger also had a triple at the plate and pitched a two-hitter with 17 strikeouts for Rochester, who won their ninth straight game to improve to 14-9. Rochester won despite not having a hit after the first inning.

Rochester will play North Judson, who received a bye, at 7 p.m. today in the semifinals.

“We’re young,” Rochester coach Jim Coleman said. “For us to get this win tonight in the first round of sectionals, something we didn’t do last year (a 9-5 loss to Winamac). You know, tonight, I wouldn’t say it was Zebra softball. We competed. We hung in there. We were able to execute down the stretch, but we didn’t play our style, and a lot of that was because of our nerves. So hopefully tomorrow, we’ll see a little bit more of what we’re accustomed to seeing. And with that many freshmen, to get them one game under their belt, I hope we have a lot of softball in front of us.”

Wilson later called it “one of our rougher games.”

Ava Hubner had both hits for Lewis Cass, who lost their seventh straight game and finished 7-14. Amma Fitzhugh walked none, struck out six and allowed only four baserunners, but she had to settle for a heartbreaking loss.

But the shocking moment occurred with Rochester leading 2-1 and Lewis Cass’ Hannah Zamora batting with a runner on third and two outs in the top of the third.

Zamora scorched a liner off Rensberger’s knee. Incredibly, the ball caromed right to Mia Howdeshell standing right next to first base. She stepped on the bag to retire the side.

That was the first break.

After a delay between innings with concerned players taking a knee, Rochester got their second break when Rensberger returned to the dugout under her own power and then to the circle returned to the circle for the fourth.

“I flat out asked Bria if she was OK, and she said that she was fine and good to go,” Coleman said. “Obviously, we had Christina (Hughes), the trainer, take a look at it, and she also said it was on the bone. It’s going to be sore and tender, but to her, everything looked good as well.”

Over the last four innings, she allowed just two baserunners. Coleman said Rensberger’s pitches seemed to gain in velocity after the injury.

“Bria’s as tough as you get,” Coleman said.

But Lewis Cass did tie it in the top of the sixth. Hubner led off with a single and went to second on a wild pitch.

Zamora then laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Hubner to third. Hoping to get Hubner straying off third too far, the throw from first back to third was wild and out of play for an error, and Huber was awarded home plate to tie the game.

Zamora was the last Lewis Cass batter to put the ball in play. Rensberger struck out the final five batters of the game.

The first four Lewis Cass batters in the lineup went 2 for 8 with three strikeouts. The last five batters in the lineup went 0 for 15 with 14 strikeouts.

She got Heta Kosunen on an off-speed pitch and whiffed Kylie Logan and Alisyia Zamora on rise balls to end it.

Meanwhile, the winning rally in the bottom of the sixth started with Wilson hitting a grounder to third. The ball was booted for an error, and when the third baseman compounded her mistake by committing a throwing error, Wilson was awarded second base as umpires ruled the ball had gone out of play.

Aubrey Miller’s sacrifice bunt moved Wilson to third.

Lewis Cass elected to play their second baseman and shortstop back with Field at the plate.

Field fell down in the count 0-2 but later scorched a hot grounder off Fitzhugh’s foot that Hubner fielded at short, but her only play was to first base for an out, scoring Wilson and putting Rochester ahead.

“It was a great job of Miller standing in there,” Coleman said. “She really struggled when we took BP (batting practice) earlier trying to get a bunt down. So credit her for getting that bunt down, and Jadyn to come through with two strikes, we asked her to bunt as well, she didn't get the bunt down and stayed in there and hit it hard. It’s crazy to see two pitchers actually get hit during the course of the game, but thankfully, both seem to be OK. Great piece of hitting, great bunt, and credit Wilson as well. … When she gets on, good things happen.”

Rochester beat Lewis Cass 14-3 in five innings in five innings in Walton in their Three Rivers Conference meeting Thursday, but neither Fitzhugh nor Rensberger pitched in that game.

Rensberger hit Kaitlyn Benner with a pitch to lead off the game, and she stole second. Fitzhugh struck out, but Hubner lined a single to right to move Benner to third.

And then Rensberger struck out six batters in a row.

Meanwhile, Rochester grabbed a 2-0 lead in the bottom half. Wilson led off with a single and stole second. Aubrey Miller struck out looking, but Wilson stole third, and when the throw to try to get her sailed into left field, she got up and scored.

“I was telling myself that it was another game, but I think everyone felt the nerves about it,” Wilson said. “So we definitely let it get to us a little bit, but we pulled it out.”

Later in the inning, Rensberger hammered a deep liner over the center fielder’s head and beat the throw to third for a triple. Moments later, courtesy runner Keyton Doran scored on a double.

Coleman started freshman Makhia Harding at catcher. Field, who had caught the most innings of any player, started in left field. Gabby Medina got the nod at designated player with Brailyn Hunter flexed and playing third base.

Rochester 3, Lewis Cass 2

Lewis Cass 001 001 0 – 2 2 4

Rochester 200 001 X – 3 2 2

WP – Bria Rensberger (7 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 17 K)

LP – Amma Fitzhugh (6 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K)

3B – Bria Rensberger (RHS)

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