ORION — Orion's third annual "Strike Out Cancer" event took on a larger scale Thursday, with the Chargers' baseball team participating alongside their softball counterparts.
Both Orion teams gave their fans plenty to cheer about while helping raise money for a worthy cause.
In the softball matchup with West Central North rival Rockridge, senior first baseman Kylie Smutzer — the co-organizer of the Strike Out Cancer event alongside her mother, Jennifer — drove in the tying run to cap a five-run sixth, then classmate Abby Taets' two-run single in the bottom of the seventh completed the Charger comeback for a 9-8 victory.
"This is always a big game for us," Taets said. "We're still trying to find our groove, and we've taken every game as a challenge, but one of our big goals is to perform well, and it's good to finally win one of these games."
On the baseball diamond at Love Park, Orion also pulled off some late-inning magic against the Rockets. After Rockridge scored the tying run on a seventh-inning error to eventually force extra innings, the Chargers cashed in on a Rocket miscue as Tyler Nelson sprinted home on an eighth-inning throwing error to give his team a 4-3 victory.
"The win is nice, but the cause is even better," said Orion coach Alex Johnson. "A lot of people are affected by cancer. This is a great event, and it was great to be a part of it."
Softball: After the teams exchanged first-inning runs — Rockridge (6-11, 3-2 WCC North) opened with a Michaela Stoneking RBI double; Orion (8-7, 5-3) responded on a Mackenzie Smith RBI single — the Rockets retook the lead on Callie Gosney's second-inning sacrifice fly, then gradually extended their lead to 6-1 after five innings.
Despite Rockridge's three-hit outings by Genna Flaherty, Jenna Carroll and Erin Lingle, the Rockets lost late for a second straight day. On Wednesday, Mercer County rallied for a 7-6 win on the Rockets' home diamond.
"We'll do great things one inning, then come out and give the runs back. We just can't seem to finish an inning," lamented Rockridge coach Jason Lingle. "We're struggling to find something that works. I know the players want to win; I hope they can figure it out and get it together."
Orion made the day a joyous event with its come-from-behind victory, with Haley Anderson's one-out solo homer igniting the three-run seventh. Her single with one out also opened the Chargers' five-run sixth. A two-run Katie Conway single fueled the fire before Mackenzie Smith (3-for-4) and Smutzer finished the job.
"I'll be going away to school (SIU-Edwardsville), but I'm hoping to come back for this next year," Smutzer said. "I asked my mom why we couldn't do something like this. I couldn't imagine it getting to this, and I couldn't be happier with it."
Baseball: Rockridge got off to a quick start, scoring in the second and third innings. Alex Martin's RBI single made it a 2-0 game before Orion (8-7, 3-2) got on the board in the bottom of the third on Trent Burns' RBI single.
"That's one thing I'll say about this group" said Johnson, "they keep fighting and competing. They've been in this situation before, and it'll help (in the postseason)."
The Chargers then struck for two fifth-inning runs to go up 3-2, with Christian Allen belting an RBI single to tie the game before scoring on an error. Rockridge managed the tying run when Jake Foy scored on a two-out miscue. But after Orion's Burns shut down the Rockets in the eighth, the hosts made Rockridge pay for its lack of timely hitting.
"We're just not hitting at all," lamented Rockridge coach Glen Cook. "Chase pitched well enough to win, but the way we're hitting, we can't make a mistake on defense. That really puts the pressure on our pitching and defense."
Today is Sunday, March 9, the 68th day of 2014. There are 297 days left in the year. 1864 -- 150 years ago: Much damage is being done to sidewalks, shade trees, fences and gardens by hogs that are running at large about town. 1889 -- 125 years ago: H.C. Cleveland was elected air knight captain of Rock Island Division Uniform Rank Knights of Pythias. 1914 -- 100 years ago: B.W. Wilson, authority on birds and their habits, spoke at the weekly luncheon at the Rock Island Club. 1939 -- 75 years ago: The famous Dionne quintuplets have been invited to visit King George and Queen Elizabeth in Toronto on May 22, but Papa Dionne thinks their majesties should include the Callander nursery in their tour. 1964 -- 50 years ago: Ever been smothered by funny stuff? Well more than 2,600 people were last night when two boys named Tom and Dick Smothers took a "rocky, twisting road to folk music" in Davenport Masonic Temple. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Moline residents soon may be asked to recycle part of their garbage and might even get paid for it.