BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
BUNKER HILL — Kylie Coleman had two hits and two RBIs, Aubrey Miller drove in the go-ahead run as part of a four-run second inning, and Mia Howdeshell exhibited improved control over the final four innings to lead the Rochester softball team to a 9-3 win over host Maconaquah Wednesday.
Sydney Haughs also had two RBIs on a pair of sacrifice flies, and Emma Howdeshell, Maddi Heinzmann and Darah Strasser had one RBI each for Rochester, who improved to 11-4 overall and 5-1 in the Three Rivers Conference.
Shaela Brazzel and Bailey Carson had two hits each for the Lady Braves, who dropped to 7-10, 3-2.
This marked the first time any player on Rochester’s roster had beaten Maconaquah.
Rochester scored four runs in the top of the second to take a 5-2 lead and never trailed after that.
Emma Howdeshell lined a ground-rule RBI double down the left field line – the ball rolled under the chain-link fence in left field – to make it 2-2 and move Strasser to third. Miller then hit a grounder to third that was bobbled for an error, scoring Strasser and moving Emma Howdeshell to third. Rochester was back up 3-2.
Coleman’s ground single just to the right of second base made it 4-2, and Haughs’ sacrifice fly to center increased the lead to three.
Rochester saw Maconaquah pitcher Blayklee Buman last year when she pitched two hitless innings of relief in a 6-4 Maconaquah win at Fansler Field. Their game plan against her this year was to look away.
“We knew that she could hit her spots,” Rochester coach Jim Coleman said. “So we looked for the ball away. We really tried getting the ball dirty, forcing their defense to get us out. Bunting was another key factor for us coming in, to get the ball down and allow our speed to be a factor. Once we get on base, we’re a tough out.”
Mia Howdeshell escaped the second inning unscored upon despite walking the first two batters. She gave up a hit and walked two more batters in the third but struck out Thea Tyra with the bases loaded to keep the lead at three. Coach Coleman made a visit to the circle during the third-inning jam.
“She was overthrowing a little bit early,” coach Coleman said. “I think she was just trying to hit her spots and trying to overthrow. I just came out and reminded her to stay within herself. Take a deep breath. I thought she was working a little too quick. Got her to slow down a little bit, and then she started to hit her spots.
Another RBI single from Coleman to a similar part of the field and another sacrifice pop-up to short from Haughs made it 7-2 in the fourth.
And after walking five in the first three innings, Mia Howdeshell walked none in the next three innings.
Maconaquah scored an unearned run off her in the sixth on Olivia Gross’ pinch-hit RBI grounder to make it 7-3, but Maddi Heinzmann’s RBI double off first baseman Blayklee Buman’s glove and Strasser’s RBI infield single in the seventh completed the scoring.
Strasser also had four putouts in center field, which is a new position for her in high school ball but a spot she is familiar with in travel ball days. Coach Coleman said Strasser “saved us at least three runs” with her defense.
Meanwhile, she has also improved her batting average from .294 last year to .378 this year.
“I think a lot that factors into that is confidence,” Strasser said. “Last year, any time I would strike out or do bad, I would just get down on myself and that would just lead to more bad things, but now, I’ve been more confident, and my coaches have brought me up, and I just feel more confident and strong, I guess.”
Rochester scored in the top of the first when Emma Howdeshell scored on the front end of a double steal with Miller stealing second on the back end.
Maconaquah scored twice in the bottom half, all after the first two batters were retired. Brazzel scorched a double to deep left-center and later scored on Carson’s RBI single to center, but Rochester catcher Kallie Watson threw Carson out at second trying to advance on the throw.
In other TRC games of note Wednesday, North Miami shut out Manchester 11-0 in six innings, and Tippecanoe Valley edged Southwood 3-2. North Miami, who is 6-0 in the TRC, maintained their one-game conference lead over Rochester and Valley.
Valley’s lone loss was to North Miami on May 4. Rochester hosts North Miami next Wednesday.
Rochester 9, Maconaquah 3
Rochester 140 200 2 – 9 10 1
Maconaquah 200 001 0 – 3 5 3
WP – Mia Howdeshell (7 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 6 BB, 4 K)
LP – Blayklee Buman (4 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 2 HBP, 1 K)
2B – Emma Howdeshell (RHS), Maddi Heinzmann (RHS), Shaela Brazzel (MAC), Bailey Carson (MAC)