Archive for Friday, July 8, 2005

Outlaws start strong at AFA State

Timely hits key furious rally in nightcap thriller

July 8, 2005

— Becca Smith-Vandergriff swears she was nervous when she stepped to the plate with two outs, the bases loaded and the Lansing Outlaws softball team trailing by a run against the Techno Cats.

"Like none other," she said with a laugh after the game. "I don't think I've ever been more nervous."

Smith-Vandergriff, the Outlaws' right fielder and a student at Bishop Miege High School, set the jitters aside, stepped hard into a pitch and hit a single that bounced up the middle. As the Cats' second baseman charged to make a play, the ball clipped second base, skipped to the right and rolled into the right-field grass. Two runs scored.

The Outlaws (13-9-2) then held on for the 6-5 victory. By also winning game one by a score of 9-2 against the Basehor-Bonner Lady Sox, the Outlaws finished pool play at the AFA State Tournament with a 2-0 record. They next will play at either 3:30 p.m. or 5 p.m. Saturday in the double-elimination bracket-play portion of the tournament.

It will be a prime opportunity for the Outlaws to shake off the woes they've had the last two times they played in weekend tournaments. They went 0-1-2 at the rain-shortened Hidden Valley Tournament and then went 0-4 at the Wild West Showdown in Dodge City. While in Dodge City they lost a game to the Techno Cats after leading most of the way.

"It really meant a lot to try to get back at them," Smith-Vandergriff said of Lansing's second victory Friday night.

The second victory was much tougher to earn than the first. In game one, Lansing took the lead in the first inning when Jessica Hauver earned a leadoff walk, stole second and then advanced to third and home on passed balls for a 1-0 lead.

The Sox tied the game with a run in the bottom of the first, but then it was all Lansing. Smith-Vandergriff and Erika Rios hit back-to-back singles. Carolyn McKune reached base on a fielder's choice. Nicole Holland reached base on a dropped third strike. Hauver and Maggie Aus then singled and Dana Sanders smashed a two-run double to the fence in left field. In all, the Outlaws plated five runs in the second inning. They scored three more times in the fourth inning when McKune ripped an RBI-double to center and Melissa Crawford hit a two-run single to left field. The Sox scored once in the bottom of the fourth - the result of three Lansing errors - but they never threatened enough to make things interesting.

Game one may have been a cakewalk, but game two was a dogfight. The Techno Cats took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first and held Lansing hitless during the first three innings. The Outlaws' lone run during that span came when Kelly Fratzel walked and pinch runner Jessica Stark came around to score on a fielder's choice. That tied the game at 1-1, but the Cats scored on an error in the bottom of the third to go back on top 2-1. They added another run in the fourth before Lansing managed to score again.

Jessica Kane walked and later scored on McKune's single in the top of the fifth. The Outlaws seemed poised to take the lead, but they stranded the bases loaded and trailed 3-2.

The Cats pushed their lead to 5-2 in the bottom of the fifth when they scored two runs on three hits. At that point, it seemed, the Outlaws were done : only they knew better.

Jessica Kane scoops up a ground ball before firing to first base for an out.

Jessica Kane scoops up a ground ball before firing to first base for an out.

"No matter what happens, we can still come back and get it together and try to deal with things," Smith-Vandergriff said.

Boy did the Outlaws come back.

Hauver earned a leadoff walk. Sanders reached on an error. Crawford singled home a run. Kane reached on a fielder's choice. Stark ripped a one-run single down the line in left field that pulled Lansing within 5-4.

Then it was up to Smith-Vandergriff. With the bases loaded and two outs, she hit what proved to be the game-winning single up the middle. Kane trotted home from third and Stark raced around from second for the go-ahead run.

Strong pitching by Rios and solid defense by McKune allowed the Outlaws to close out the game as time expired.

Smith-Vandergriff said the Outlaws have high expectations heading into bracket play on Saturday.

"I think we'll use this to take charge and realize that we didn't fight all the way back just to fall back again," she said. "(We know) we'll have to stay on top of everybody."

NOTES

- Dana Sanders earned the victory in game one as she threw a four-hitter. Her record now is 5-4-1.

- Erika Rios earned the victory in game two and improved her record to 3-0.

- Maggie Aus was 2-for-2 at the plate in game one with a run and an RBI.

- Sanders and Melissa Crawford both had two RBI in game one. Rios and Carolyn McKune each scored two runs.

- Jessica Hauver was 1-for-1 with a single, two walks and three runs scored in game one.

- Crawford was a team-best 2-for-3 at the plate in game two.

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