MOLINE -- It was the miraculous comeback that wasn't meant to be for the Alleman softball team, but the momentum it generated resulted in a handsome payoff.|
Down by 10 runs entering the bottom of the sixth inning in Saturday's Western Big 6 Conference opener against the Moline Maroons, the Pioneers scored twice in the sixth, then scored seven in the final inning and had the winning run on first base before Moline pitcher Cassie Shaw nailed down a 14-13 win.
After spotting the Maroons two first-inning runs in the second game at Rose Gemignani Memorial Field, Alleman tied the game on Lexi Ferrari's two-run home run, then took control with a 10-run fourth inning as it secured the conference-opening split with a 13-3, six-inning victory.
"We really wanted this game,'' said Ferrari, who was 3-for-7 with seven RBIs as part of a prolific offensive attack for the Pioneers (9-3) which produced 26 runs on 23 hits. "We had a positive attitude; we didn't let anything get us down. We knew we still had to work our hardest.''
After each team's two-run opening-inning salvos in the second game, pitchers Alaina Hofmann of Moline and Emily Hoffman of Alleman held the line until the last of the fourth. That was when the Pioneers sent 14 batters to the plate to open up a sizable lead, the key blows being two-run singles by Izzy Anderson and Abby Thompson.
For the day, Anderson was 5-for-9 with four RBIs and Thompson was 4-for-4 and drove in three runs. Teammates Mackenzie Sanchez and Caitlin DeWitte each had two first-game hits and combined for five RBIs in the opener.
"No doubt about it, I'm really happy,'' Alleman coach Mike Ebner said of his team's offensive production. "Up and down (the lineup), everyone can hit the ball. Hitting is obviously contagious, and that's something we've done all year; eight runs is the (fewest) we've scored in a game. But if we want to have a chance to win, we have to make the routine plays, and we didn't do that in the first game.
"At the same time, we know we can come back, because we've done that in a lot of games. It was nice to get the second game. We wanted both, but you've got to do what you can.''
In the opener, Moline (8-3) struck quickly on Hofmann's two-run, first-inning homer. Then, with the Maroons holding a slim 5-3 lead entering the fifth, they widened it on a three-run homer by Payton Hostens (2-for-4, four RBIs), then batted around in the sixth and scored six runs to go up 14-4, sparked by RBI singles from Morgan Murphy and Emily Woodford. Woodford was 4-for-8 on the day.
"We're a good hitting team, no doubt about that,'' said Moline coach Mark Gerlach. "But doubleheaders are tough, and we need someone besides Cassie to hold the other team down. We've got to find that, and we know Alaina and Megan (Adams) are capable, though they both struggled in the second game.
"We weren't fooling them, that's for sure. Hitting is contagious, and they were going up there with a lot of confidence.''
However, Alleman wasn't about to go down quietly as Ferrari's three-run homer and a two-run double by DeWitte fueled its seven-run, seventh-inning comeback bid. With runners on first and second, Shaw (3-0) retired Dakota Stout to end the game. At the plate, Shaw was 5-for-6.
And while the Maroons were disappointed to split, Gerlach feels that his team still has the makings of a Big 6 championship squad.
"We still control our own destiny in the Big 6 if we can go out and win the rest of our games,'' he said. "It's a little bit tougher now, no doubt about it.''
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