Down to a last out in the bottom of the sixth inning with his Rock Island Rocks trailing by two runs with the potential to strand their 12th and 13th runners of the Western Big 6 Conference softball game, RI coach Steve Ebner felt a change was necessary, even an unconventional one.|
His Plohr decision turned out to be a great one.
Sophomore pinch-hitter Kyrstin Plohr turned her first Big 6 varsity hit into a game-deciding three-run home run over the fence in right-center field at Frances Willard Field to power the Rocks to a 9-6 win over Galesburg in the first game of a doubleheader.
Ebner pulled off more pinch-hit genius in the second game, with Sam Cram delivering a single in the Rocks' go-ahead inning that propelled them to a 6-2 victory and a sweep of the Streaks.
"I wasn't surprised when Coach Ebner called on me, He is spontaneous; he likes to change things up," said Plohr, who was 0-for-1 in her only WB6 at-bat going in.
Ebner changed things up a bit in the second game as well, giving Plohr her first WB6 start, behind the plate. Batting fifth, she delivered her second hit in the first inning with a two-run single, giving her five RBIs on the day.
"She has practiced with us all year; she's a backup for us at four key positions – catcher, obviously, she's a center fielder for the sophomores and she plays second and third," Ebner said of Plohr. "She's valuable to us, but she was sitting on the bench so much that we sent her down to get more playing time."
That time with the sophomores probably ended with Saturday's twinbill, with Ebner giving Plohr a welcome-to-the-varsity pat on the back after the postgame huddle.
Cram was another getting high praise from the Rocky coach. In her sixth WB6 pinch-hitting situation, the senior got her third hit, driving in Jenna Smith, who had doubled, in a two-run fourth in the second game. That gave RI a 4-2 lead.
"She's the heart and soul of this team," Ebner said of Cram. "She's a senior who knows she's not going to play a lot, but she cares more than anyone. You've got to love a kid like that."
The key pinch-hits provided pitcher Ashlyn Hornback with a pair of pitching wins. Hornback (4-6) pitched one inning of relief in the opener, giving up two runs on a hit and three walks that netted the Streaks a 6-3 lead. Starter Tiffany Comstock re-entered on the mound in the seventh to get the save.
In Game 2, Hornback was stellar, giving up only two hits, one to Bri Brown to start the game and one to No. 9 hitter Carolyn Scherpe with two outs in the seventh.
"It's tough at first," Hornback said of pitching in temperatures than never reached 50. "You just think about your pitches and do what you have to do."
The Rocks also got a four-hit day from outfielder Courtney Pearson. De'Aysha Walker drove in a pair in the second game.
The 9-15 Rocks head into the final week of WB6 play with a 3-5 record in the conference. The Streaks, 6-21 overall, fall to 0-8 in the WB6.