Defense shines in Outlaws victory
Hauver’s bat continues to sizzle at USSSA State Tourney
Shawnee Lansing Outlaws softball coach Russ Stark said on Wednesday that he thought his team was on the verge of playing its perfect game.
The Outlaws (16-12-2) came pretty close to perfection on Friday as they fended off a stiff challenge from the Lunatics in the first round of the USSSA State Tournament at Mid-America West Sports Complex.
Outlaws 3, Lunatics 1.
"I think that's probably the best all-around game we've played," Stark said.
Even better than their stellar performance Wednesday evening when they beat the Cannon Blasters 3-0 in the first game of a doubleheader. During that game, the Outlaws received flawless defense from infielders Carolyn McKune (second base), Dana Sanders (shortstop) and Maggie Aus (third base).
Friday was a repeat performance for the defense as McKune, Sanders and Aus snuffed out ground ball after ground ball. Left fielder Jessica Hauver capped off the defensive effort with a rally-killing grab while running toward the fence and staring into the sun.
The bats were plenty good too. Hauver hit a lead-off double in the first inning and came around to score when Dana Sanders reached base on an error.
The game stood still at 1-0 through five innings as a defensive battle ensued. Lansing pitcher Erika Rios forced the Lunatics to hit ground balls and her defense handled all of them. The Lunatics were solid defensively, too, led by former Lansing High player Heather Garza who made eight put-outs from third base.
Outlaws win USSSA State opener
The Lansing Outlaws opened the USSSA State Tournament with a 3-1 victory over the Lunatics. Here are scenes from the game.
"They played well defensively. Heather Garza played a heck of a game," Stark said. "But in the infield, we probably played about as well as we can."
The Lunatics broke through and tied the game in the top of the sixth. Garza singled and came around to score. They might have taken the lead, but Hauver's catch robbed Katie Thompson of extra bases.
The big catch set the stage for the Outlaws' big inning. Hauver led off the bottom of the sixth with an infield single. Then Aus broke out of a 1-for-15 slump by smashing a double to deep left field that scored Hauver for the game-winning run. Melissa Crawford later singled and then scored on a double to left by Jessica Kane. That was plenty of offense because the defense shut down the Lunatics in the top of the seventh.
The victory advanced Lansing to the second round of the winner's bracket in the double-elimination tournament. They'll play the Topeka Explosion - a team that beat the Outlaws 6-1 last Sunday - at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. A victory against Topeka would put the Outlaws in a 9:30 p.m. Saturday game. A loss would put them in an 8 p.m. Saturday game.
"That's one down," Stark said. "We've got three more to go to get to the championship game. Hopefully this will be the weekend (we get it done)."
- The Outlaws played Friday without regular left fielder Jessica Stark. Stark missed Wednesday's doubleheader after breaking her toe in an accident at work Wednesday morning. Despite the injury, Stark might play Saturday.
"She may play," said coach Russ Stark, Jessica's father. "She said she ran a mile today. The swelling's gone down a lot. It's just bruised. I'd rather wait for nationals, but she wants to play."
- Jessica Hauver was 3-for-3 at the plate. Friday. She is hitting .609 (14-23) during the last 10 games.