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Pioneer goes 2-0, Rochester 1-1 at 3-way doubleheader

Rensberger fans 15 in win over Carroll; Haynes, Lady Panthers hold off Lady Zs; Layer strikes out 8 in win over Carroll


Sports Editor, RTC

Mylee Heinzmann

FLORA — The Pioneer softball team would like to be more focused in the middle of games.

They showed in winning both of their games against Rochester and host Carroll (Flora) Saturday that they have the start and finish of games down pat.

Pioneer started their season 2-0 with an 8-7 win over Rochester and a 12-6 win over Carroll.

Rochester went 1-1 on the day, holding off Carroll 7-5 in the first game.

Rochester 7, Carroll 5

Rochester led 6-0 after two innings against Carroll before holding on. Bria Rensberger had 15 strikeouts, including two critical strikeouts of Carroll slugger Emily Justice.

Justice got to Rensberger for a two-run double as part of Carroll’s four-run third winning, but Rensberger struck out Justice looking with runners on second and third to end the fourth and then again swinging with a runner on third to end the fifth.

Jadyn Field and Mylee Heinzmann had two-out, two-run singles in the first inning to give the Lady Zs a 4-0 lead.

Heinzmann spoke of the work she put in to improve her hitting since last season.

“I was not really a good hitter last year,” Heinzmann said. “I struggled a lot, so coming back this year, I think I did pretty good. It took a lot of tee work and hitting with coaches and all that.”

Aubrey Wilson’s RBI triple and Brailyn Hunter’s subsequent RBI single made it 6-0 in the second.

Justice’s two-run double and Kyla Land’s two-run single in the third cut the lead to 6-4.

Rochester’s final run came in the fifth when Darah Strasser scored on a passed ball. That made it 7-4.

In the bottom of the sixth, Kaylin Randle scored from third on a dropped pop-up with two outs before Rensberger struck out Justice to escape further trouble.

Rensberger then struck out Charlotte Kingery, got Land on a fly out to right and struck out Lily Jackson to end it.

“You know, Bria, I really thought after that fourth inning, settled down a little bit,” Coleman said. “She was missing her change-up up. She was relying too much on her fastball. After the first time through, hitters adjust, and I thought they adjusted well, but Bria came back and adjusted very well, started getting her change-up down. We got a couple weak ground balls to second base that were key. You start getting those hitters off-balance a little bit, and she started to believe in that change-up a little bit more.”

Rochester sophomore left fielder Aubrey Miller left with a left knee injury after striking out to end the top of the third. Coleman said Miller reaggravated a previous injury while sliding into second base. Keyton Doran entered in right field, and Hunter moved from right field to left field.

Miller sat out the Pioneer game that followed.

“She’s been really plagued with her left knee,” Coleman said. “When she slid into second, she aggravated that knee again. It’s one of those things that she has hurt before the season, and she had X-rays done before our season officially started back when we were having open gyms and everything, and she tweaked it sliding into second. That knee is extremely bruised. It’s one of those things where we’re going to have to be careful with her.”

Rochester’s lineup included five freshmen and two sophomores.

Coleman was asked about the young players’ eagerness to succeed.

“They’re hungry,” Coleman said. “I’ll tell you that. They were very successful through middle school, and that’s rolled over into this season. Having that winning attitude and that confidence, it goes a long way. But they came in pushing, and that’s one of the big reasons we’re starting six freshmen.”

Said Heinzmann: “I’ve played with these freshmen my whole life. They’re my same age, so it’s kind of fun to bring them back all together with me, and having my old team and a few others like juniors and Aubrey (Miller) coming to play with them.”

Rochester 7, Carroll 5

Rochester 420 010 0 – 7 8 4

Carroll 004 001 0 – 5 8 3

WP – Bria Rensberger (7 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 15 K)

LP – Emily Justice (4 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 7 K)

2B – Aubrey Wilson (RHS), Emily Justice (CARR)

3B – Aubrey Wilson (RHS)

Casey Webb

Pioneer 8, Rochester 7

Eight hitters in Pioneer’s batting order had at least one hit. Eight hitters scored at least one run.

Still, they hung on after taking an 8-0 lead after four innings.

Adeline Cripe went 2 for 3 with an RBI and a run scored at the plate, and she also made a running catch on Heinzmann’s fly to shallow right-center with two on base for the second out in the seventh inning.

Casey Webb had a two-run double in the bottom of the second to put Pioneer ahead for good, and Kylie Attinger, Ava Beasy and Emma Sells each had a hit and an RBI. Ava Ott, Addison Kennell and Hollie Zellers each had a hit and a run scored.

Lois Layer walked and scored in the third.

Heinzmann went 3 for 4 with an RBI and two runs scored, and Darah Strasser went 3 for 3 for the Lady Zs. Aubrey Wilson had two hits.

Hunter, Field, Makhia Harding and Howdeshell each had a hit and an RBI.

Howdeshell pitched the first four innings and took the loss. Hunter followed with two hitless innings in relief in her pitching debut.

Trailing 8-5, Rochester started the seventh with back-to-back-to-back singles from Hunter, Rensberger and Field. Field’s RBI hit made it 8-6.

Gabby Medina grounded out to pitcher Katelynn Haynes, moving runners to second and third.

Harding reached on an error, which brought home Rensberger while Field held at second.

Heinzmann then lofted a fly to shallow right center that center fielder Cripe tracked down.

Howdeshell lined to Layer at short to end the game.

“She trusted her defense, and she just kept doing exactly what she was told to do – throw strikes – and our defense finally got out of it,” Pioneer coach Gabby Thomas said of Haynes’ composure late. 

Rochester’s rally from an 8-0 deficit started with Heinzmann’s one-out double and Howdeshell’s RBI single in the fifth. After a Strasser bunt single, Wilson delivered an RBI single to score Howdeshell. Hunter’s RBI grounder to Sells at second base made it 8-3.

Heinzmann had an RBI double in the sixth and later scored when Howdeshell’s fly ball to right field was dropped for an error.

“Our focus wasn’t there the first three or four innings,” Coleman said. “Once that fourth inning (happened), I thought we settled down a little bit and started to focus and started to do the little things that we’re capable of doing. We didn’t do Mia any favors in the circle. We gave them extra outs early, missed a couple cut-offs at the plate. We didn’t do the little things that we’re capable of doing.

“But as far as our fight, like I told them after the game, I said, ‘Learn from this.’ We did some things in the last three-and-a-half innings that we need to do for seven innings.”

Webb had a two-run double to open the scoring, and Attinger, a left-handed hitting slapper, had an RBI infield single as part of Pioneer’s three-run second.

Beasy and Cripe had RBI doubles, and Sells had an RBI single in the third as the lead stretched to 6-0.

Zellers and Ott opened the fourth with back-to-back infield singles. Zellers would eventually score on a passed ball, and Ott later scored when Beasy reached on an error to make it 8-0.

“A lot of girls can put the ball in play, and just trusting that they’re up there to do a job for their team,” Thomas said of the lineup. “And just have that quality at-bat. We stress a lot about quality at-bats, and knowing that if we make that pitcher throw eight pitches or more, that’s a QAB in my mind because you’ve seen probably every pitch that pitcher has.”

Pioneer 8, Rochester 7

Rochester 000 032 2 – 7 13 2

Pioneer 033 200 X – 8 8 3

WP – Katelynn Haynes (7 IP, 13 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 1 K)

LP – Mia Howdeshell (4 IP, 8 H, 8 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 4 K)

2B – Mylee Heinzmann 2 (RHS), Ava Beasy (PIO), Adeline Cripe (PIO), Casey Webb (PIO)

Pioneer 12, Carroll 6

After playing shortstop against Rochester, Layer earned her first career win in the circle against Carroll. 

She walked two and struck out eight, including Mallory O’Brien and Olivia Schroder with a runner at third and Pioneer hanging onto a 7-5 lead in the fifth.

She also survived four errors being committed behind her.

“We’re still trying to figure out what is the best fit for each role,” Thomas said. “You can;t have four errors and win a really, really tight ballgame. So just taking those and eliminating those and finding ways to not give them free bases because on top of the four errors, we gave them several free bases based on things we should have gotten the ball in quicker and instead of them getting first and second, now they only have first base.”

This game came immediately after Pioneer built an 8-0 lead against Rochester and then had to hold on to win 8-7.

“We were talking about that after debriefing the two games,” Thomas said. “And that was just one thing we said. We got a lead from the start and then it was like we put a cruise-control kind of thing. So keeping on them and pounding on them and just putting pressure, and I’m not saying that we weren’t, but… a little more time of the essence. Hey, it’s still a 0-0 ballgame. Pretend every inning’s that way, so that way we keep on them. Don’t make it 8-7 or 11-6.”

Rylee Lanum doubled and scored when Justice reached on an error in the sixth, but after Lanum beat the play at the plate, Webb threw back to second to retire Justice and end the inning and keep the lead at 7-6.

Pioneer then tacked on five more runs in the top of the seventh for insurance. Cripe singled and came around to score on an error. Zellers grounded back to the pitcher with the bases loaded, but the throw home sailed over the catcher’s head for an error that allowed two runs to score and make it 10-6.

Webb scored on a wild pitch, and Attinger drove in a run with a grounder to short.

Attinger had three hits and two runs scored, and Cripe had two hits and two runs scored. Webb had a double and two RBIs and also scored twice.

Webb is in her third season at Pioneer after transferring from Winamac following her freshman season. Haynes and Layer are both new pitchers on the team.

Webb said Layer’s screwball was “really working.”

“Just encouraging them knowing that it’s just pounding the zone and that the defense has their back,” Webb said of her role as a senior catcher with a new group of pitchers. “And just knowing that they’re doing a good job and encouraging them is really important.”

Pioneer had to use five different pitchers last season due to multiple injuries. They had a 6.65 ERA as a team. Webb spoke of the growth of dealing with that.

“Facing a lot of that adversity was challenging only because a lot of people had to be pulled out of spots that they normally played to step up and pitch,” Webb said. “But as a catcher, I think it was just important to whoever was pitching in that spot understanding that they were out of their comfort zone and being able to just sympathize with that and encourage them through it.”

Layer had an RBI groundout in the first and an RBI infield single in the fourth. Zellers also had an RBI.

Pioneer 12, Carroll 6

Pioneer 231 100 5 – 12 8 4

Carroll 000 411 0 – 6 9 3

WP – Lois Layer (7 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 8 K)

LP – Rylee Lanum (7 IP, 8 H, 12 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 4 K)

2B – Kylie Attinger (PIO), Casey Webb (PIO), Kaylin Randle (CARR), Rylee Lanum (CARR), Lily Jackson (CARR)

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