WABASSO - Tight games between quality teams usually come down to the little things. In its first game of the season, it was those little things that the Wabasso softball team struggled with in a 7-5 loss to New Ulm Cathedral on a windy and cool Monday afternoon in Wabasso.
In the circle, in the field, at the plate and on the base paths, the Rabbits weren't as sharp as head coach John VanLoy felt they needed to be to defeat a Greyhound squad that was the Class A state tournament consolation champion a season ago.
Wabasso junior pitcher Kimberly Frank got off to a rough start, giving up three runs in the first inning and three more in the third. She threw all seven innings for the Rabbits and struggled with her control through much of the contest, walking four batters, hitting three more and throwing multiple balls to the backstop.
Photo by Matt Dahlseid
Wabasso junior Shawna Rogotzke attempts to lay down a bunt during the first inning of Monday’s game against New Ulm Cathedral in Wabasso.
With many players returning from last year's team that made it to the Section 3A finals, VanLoy was hoping for a better performance from his squad in its opening game of 2012.
"We played bad. Kimberly struggled," VanLoy said. "She threw a lot of pitches with two strikes fat, and then she got ahead 0-2 and walked some. You can't do that against a team like this.
"We made some out-of-position mistakes, but they're young girls. We just didn't execute things, like at the end when there's a fly ball right in front of you and you don't tag up. Things like that. We're a better ball team than that."
NUC303 010 0-7 8 3
Wabasso220 100 0-5 6 2
NUC-Amy Eckstein. WAB-Kimberly Frank. WP-Eckstein. LP-Frank. 3B: WAB-Shawna Rogotzke. 2B: NUC-Eckstein; WAB-Desi Kramer. LOB: NUC 10; WAB 7.
NUC capitalized on some Wabasso miscues in the first inning to jump out to a 3-0 lead. Frank hit two batters, had a wild pitch and the Rabbits had a fielding error which contributed to the fast start to the Greyhounds.
Wabasso responded with two runs in the first and two more in the second to grab a 4-3 lead. In the first, Frank led off with an infield single, stole second and was knocked in on a double by Desi Kramer. Ellen Franta move Kramer to third with a single, and Kramer later scored on a wild pitch.
In the second inning, Kacie Rothmeier reached base on an error and was knocked in on a triple by Shawna Rogotzke, who later crossed the plate on a single by Kramer. Kramer had two hits and knocked in three runs in the contest.
It didn't take long for the Greyhounds to grab back their lead. NUC pitcher Amy Eckstein led off the third with a double to center field, which was followed by a single by Lisa Helget. After a flyout, the next three NUC batters reached base, with two drawing walks and Kristin Mohr coming through with an RBI single. At the end of the half inning, the Greyhounds were up 6-4.
Wabasso scored another run in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead to 6-5, but couldn't get any key hits off Eckstein in the final three innings and fell 7-5.
VanLoy said his players seemed a step slow on Monday, which led to some uncharacteristic plays.
"They're just stiff. They had cement shoes on," VanLoy said. "They just didn't react like they needed to yet.
"We've been practicing for a month and had to play on the coldest day. But it's spring and that's how it works."
Eckstein, one of two seniors on NUC's roster, had five strikeouts, walked three batters and hit a batter in the win. She gave up six hits in the contest. Offensively, Eckstein was 2-for-3 with a double, a walk and a run batted in.
Despite his team's struggles in its season opener, VanLoy felt the Rabbits could take some positives from Monday's loss.
"We made some nice defensive plays, but they also made some crazy defensive plays where they didn't use their head," VanLoy said. "I thought we hit alright, maybe not in key situations, but we hit alright. You come up with a couple big hits and play a little bit better defense and it's a whole different ball game."
The Rabbits resume a busy week of action today with a road game against Buffalo Lake-Hector-Steward. They then host Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop at home Thursday before hosting a tournament in Wabasso on Saturday.