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  • Val T.

‘You be you:’ Haughs’ 2-run single, running catch in center help Rochester beat Valley in extras

Stiles hits 2-run homer, Bowers has RBI, but Lady Vikes commit 7 errors


Sports Editor, RTC

WABASH — During an intense, extra-inning sectional quarterfinal struggle against

Sydney Haughs

Tippecanoe Valley at Honeywell Park in Wabash Monday, when heartbeats were racing so fast that people sitting down had their smart watches and fitbits thinking they were getting an aerobic workout, Rochester volunteer assistant softball coach Kyle Rensberger gave some simple advice to junior center fielder Sydney Haughs.

“You be you.”

Haughs was herself and maybe an extraordinary version of herself, drilling the go-ahead two-run single in the top of the ninth and making a running catch to rob Corinna Stiles of extra bases in the bottom half to lead the Lady Zs to a 6-3 win over the Lady Vikings.

Rochester improved to 10-10 and will take on Whitko (7-12) in the semifinals at 5 p.m. Tuesday. Valley finished 18-8.

Haughs, Kylie Coleman and Emma Howdeshell had two hits each for the Lady Zs.

Freshman Mia Howdeshell pitched an eight-hitter in the circle for the win. She walked six and struck out two.

“It is everything, especially as a coach to see the resilience that they had from the beginning to the end,” Rochester coach Becky Lee said. “And how much we were able to persevere through different calls and different plays and all of that stuff. I’m very proud of them.”

Valley had the leadoff batter on base in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth innings but didn’t score in any of them. Of Mia Howdeshell’s six walks, none of them came around to score.

Stiles hit a two-run homer in the third inning for Valley. Abby Bowers had an RBI single in the fifth. Madi Smith had two hits, and Mackaylie Costello, Brittany Benn and Brayden Baney had one hit apiece.

Macy Kirchenstien allowed nine hits and six runs in seven innings. She walked two, hit two batters and struck out seven. Two of the six runs she allowed were earned.

Rochester committed no errors; Valley had seven miscues.

Valley had beaten Rochester three times over the previous two seasons, including on the same Honeywell Field at last year’s sectional. Valley had beaten Rochester 13-7 in their Three Rivers Conference matchup on April 25.

“It’s a sad ending,” Valley coach Brittany Mathias said. “It wasn't really the ending we were expecting. But that’s postseason softball for you. You never know what’s going to happen. I’m really sad for the girls. They worked really hard. And they really deserved to come away with that trophy.”

Rochester took their first lead in the top of the ninth.

Emma Sells reached on a bunt single, Emma Howdeshell singled, and Coleman dropped a bloop single to shallow right with Emma Howdeshell just beating a force attempt at second base and Sells scrambling back to third after taking a hard turn around third.

Equipped with Rensberger’s advice, Haughs then sent a hard grounder into left field to drive home Sells and Emma Howdeshell.

Maddie Heinzmann then grounded back to the circle. Kirchenstien elected to throw to third to try to get a force out, but Coleman beat the throw. That re-loaded the bases with nobody out.

Mia Howdeshell then lined to second, but the throw to try and double off Haughs at second was wild for an error and rolled into left field. Coleman scored to make it 6-3.

In the bottom half, Baney singled and Molly Moriarty walked to bring the tying run to the plate. But Mia Howdeshell got Smith to ground into a force out, with shortstop Emma Howdeshell throwing to third baseman Coleman.

Stiles then blasted a long fly to left-center field, which Haughs ran down in the gap. Costello then grounded to short to end the game, and Mia Howdeshell’s teammates embraced her in celebration. Only once prior to Monday had Mia Howdeshell pitched as many seven innings in her 16 previous pitching appearances.

Afterwards, Lee raved not only about Haughs’ catch but her ability to stab Baney’s hit on one hop in the left-center field gap and hold her to a single. Lee said she thought Baney’s hit was an “easy double” off the bat.

“During practice, we do a lot of gaps between me and (left fielder) Darah (Strasser) or whoever I’m beside,” Haughs said of her catch. “And we work on whoever gets the ball calls, and whoever doesn’t backs up, and I feel like Darah knew I was there, I knew I was there, Darah’s behind just in case, and we communicated really well.”

Rochester trailed 3-2 after six innings when Kallie Watson led off by being hit by a pitch. She went to second on Sells’ grounder to Kirchenstien in the circle.

Emma Howdeshell then grounded to short, and Costello ranged deep in the hole to throw her out. After Costello released her throw, Watson headed to third. The throw to try and get Watson was wild for an error, and Watson came in to tie the game.

“She doesn’t want to run into the tag, so if she’s running and she runs right in front of her or right behind that shortstop, that’s an easy tag, so she wanted to be a harder out and make it more difficult,” Lee said of Watson’s daring baserunning.

Watson, Rochester’s junior catcher, made her first of two big defensive plays in the bottom of the seventh. With a runner on first and two outs, she picked Abby Bowers off first on a snap throw.

In the bottom of the eighth, Maddie Thompson led off with a walk. Benn then popped up a bunt right in front of the plate. Watson caught it and threw quickly to Sells covering first to double off Thompson. Kirchenstien then grounded back to Mia Howdeshell to send the game to the ninth inning.

“That’s just pure athleticism from Kallie Watson and a heads-up play by Emma Sells to get there,” Lee said of the double play. “That one is one you can’t really practice, but you just have to have the heads-up awareness, and they did.”

Valley took a 2-0 lead in the third on Stiles’ two-run blast to straightaway center. It was her eighth homer of the season and gave her 46 RBIs.

Rochester scored two runs in the fourth, both with two outs. Coleman scored on an error on a grounder that Mia Howdeshell hit. Haughs then scored on an error on a grounder that Haley Durkes hit.

Madi Smith led off the fifth with her second single of the night. Courtesy runner Olivia Wilson advanced to second on a wild pitch and later scored when Bowers’ fly ball to shallow center just dropped in front of Haughs as she tried to make a shoestring catch.

The throw appeared to beat Wilson, but Watson couldn’t hang onto the ball on a tag attempt, and Wilson was called safe. The call was confirmed after another umpire conference.

Kirchenstien pitched a 1-2-3 fifth and then struck out Darah Strasser looking with two on base to end the sixth, putting Valley on the brink of another sectional win over the Lady Zs.

Game notes

  • The game’s most unusual play occurred with Coleman batting and nobody on and two outs in the seventh and the game tied 3-3. Costello snagged her grounder in the hole and threw to first on a close play. Valley defenders ran off the field. But after an umpire conference, Coleman was ruled safe on interference after having ruled that Coleman and the first baseman made contact. So the Valley defense had to return to the field, and Kirchenstien eventually got out of the inning with no further damage.

  • Lewis Cass beat Manchester 15-12 in Monday’s second quarterfinal. Lewis Cass will play Wabash in the semifinals at approximately 7 p.m. Tuesday following the Whitko-Rochester game.

  • Rochester beat Whitko 7-6 on April 21 in South Whitley.

  • Valley came into the sectional with 18 wins. No other team in the sectional had more than nine.

  • Valley catcher Madi Smith threw out Emma Howdeshell trying to steal in the fourth. Emma Howdeshell leads Rochester with 21 stolen bases.

Rochester 6, Tippecanoe Valley 3 (9 innings)

Rochester 000 200 103 – 6 9 0

Valley 002 010 000 – 3 8 7

WP – Mia Howdeshell (9 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 6 BB, 2 K)

LP – Macy Kirchenstien (9 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 HBP, 7 K)

2B – Mackaylie Costello (TV)

HR – Corinna Stiles (TV)

Watch the full game here:

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