Archive for Thursday, July 14, 2005

Outlaws look strong in final league series

Defense, pitching solid during doubleheader split

July 14, 2005

— Two more games. Two more steps forward.

That's how Lansing Outlaws coach Russ Stark views his squad's doubleheader split with the Cannon Blasters on Wednesday night at Field of Dreams.

The Outlaws (15-12-2) won the first game 3-0 before dropping a 4-3 decision in the nightcap. Despite the split, they played nearly flawless defense all game and had plenty of pop in their bats. The lack of a timely hit early in game two was the reason they lost.

Lansing sizzled in all facets during game one. Their bats were crisp - Jessica Hauver, Dana Sanders and Melissa Crawford had two hits apiece. Jessica Kane was effective on the mound while allowing just four hits. Sanders (shortstop), Maggie Aus (third base) and Carolyn McKune (second base) locked down the infield and didn't let a ground ball through. In all, it was a total team effort.

"Hopefully they're finding their groove at the right time," Stark said.

The Outlaws mustered just one hit during the first three innings - an infield single by Sanders - but Kane matched the Blasters' pitcher with an equally dominating performance.

When the fourth inning arrive, Kane remained strong but the Lansing bats found their target. Hauver smacked a leadoff single, Sanders doubled to left and Crawford ripped a two-run single to center field. That was all the offense the Outlaws needed, but they tagged on an insurance run in the top of the sixth when Hauver singled up the middle and scored on Crawford's base hit to left.

Exactly how good was the Outlaws' defense in game one? Of the 21 Blaster outs, six of them came on hits to Sanders. Aus and McKune fielded four ground balls apiece for outs.

The Outlaws had plenty of pop in their bats in game two, but they never got the big hit when they needed it during the first three innings. They stranded nine base runners during the game, including eight of them in the first three innings.

Lansing had runners on second and third with one out in the first but were unable to score. They later stranded the bases loaded in both the second and third innings and didn't score. A single run during that time might have been enough to demoralize the Cannon Blasters because Sanders had them baffled with her strong outing on the mound. She worked a one-hitter for four innings, but the Outlaws trailed 1-0 because the lone base hit resulted in a third-inning run.

The Blasters figured out Sanders in the fifth. They found the gaps and plated three runs off four hits. That pushed the lead to 4-0.

The Outlaws finally got some timely hitting in the bottom of the fifth, but it wasn't quite enough to pull out the victory. Hauver hit a leadoff single. Aus reached base on an error. Sanders reached on a fielder's choice that got Hauver out.

Crawford blasted a run-scoring double to center field. Kane followed with a sacrifice fly that scored Sanders. Then Nicole Holland ripped an RBI-single up the middle that scored Crawford and pulled the Outlaws within 4-3. Kelly Fratzel's ground ball cut the rally short, however.

"In the second game we were playing out of position, and since it was our last league game we were letting them play around," Stark said. "We didn't try to move runners. We just let everybody hit. I don't think we tried to bunt. But we made a comeback at the end and we hit the ball hard all the time."

Despite the loss, Stark said he wasn't disappointed with his squad because it played well. The Outlaws played arguably their best defensive games of the summer. They didn't get rattled when mistakes happened - and the mistakes were few. They made solid contact at the plate. Stark said that gave him every reason to believe the Outlaws are ready to peak. They'll have that chance at 6:30 p.m. Friday when they open play at the USSSA State Tournament at Mid-America West Sports Complex in Shawnee. They'll face the Lunatics, a team they swept 4-3 and 9-1 on May 25.

"All in all we played well," Stark said. "We played a little out of position because it was the last league game, but hopefully we can just stay loose and be ready for this weekend. I think we're ready."

NOTES

- The Outlaws played without left fielder Jessica Stark on Wednesday night. They will be without her services for the remainder of the summer because she broke her toe during an accident at work on Wednesday morning.

- Jessica Hauver continues to hit the ball well. She was 4-for-6 at the plate Wednesday. She is batting .550 (11-20) during the Outlaws' last nine games.

- Melissa Crawford was 4-for-6 at the plate Wednesday. She is hitting .375 (9-for-24) during the last nine games.

- Dana Sanders was 4-for-6 at the plate Wednesday. She is hitting .348 (8-for-23) during the last nine games.

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