MARSHALL - Down 6-2 to Marshall after four innings, the Benson/Hancock softball team exploded for 13 runs over the final three frames, including nine runs in the seventh, to escape with a 15-6 non-conference win over the Tigers on a windy Monday afternoon at the Marshall Softball Complex.
Marshall freshman pitcher Callie Graff struggled to get out of the first inning with a pair of walks and a hit batter, which allowed the Braves to score two quick runs. But Graff gained her composure in the circle and worked three straight scoreless innings while the Tigers scored three runs in the first and three more in the third to grab a four-run lead.
Graff threw mostly strikes in the last three innings. The problem was that the Braves just kept belting the ball. Benson/Hancock scored three runs on four hits in the fifth, tied the game in the sixth with a solo home run by Gabi Doscher, then had each batter in the order reach base and score a run in the seventh as the Braves blew the game open.
Photo by Matt Dahlseid
Marshall’s Brooke Louwagie (5) gets caught in a rundown between second base and first base during the fourth inning of Monday’s non-conference game against Benson/Hancock at the Marshall Softball Complex. Louwagie was eventually tagged out on the play.
Jack Houseman said Graff did a decent job battling through the game and just caught a team that got hot in the seventh.
"You're going to have those innings, and that's what I told Callie is, "'You're going to have those innings where they just get their hits,'" said Houseman, whose team drops to 3-7 overall.
While the Braves' bats ignited late in the game, the Marshall bats went cold.
Marshall started the game strong with three runs in the first against Benson/Hancock starter Kendra Schmidgall. Graff, the leadoff batter, drew a walk and Katie Kaiser followed with a single through the infield. Two batters later, catcher Kelli VanLeeuwe knocked in a Graff with a single. VanLeeuwe went on to steal second and the pick-off throw went into the outfield, allowing her to reach third and Kaiser to score. Jessica Tubbs was up next and ground out to second base, but VanLeeuwe scored on the play.
Schmidgall lost her control in the third after Kaiser reached base on an error and Brooke Louwagie got on with a single to right. VanLeeuwe was up next and got hit by a pitch to load the bases, then Schmidgall walked Jessica Tubbs and Emily Mortier, giving the Tigers two more runs.
With Schmidgall unable to get an out, Benson/Hancock coach Ken Grunig turned to junior Kayla Jones to take the circle, and she delivered.
Jones threw a wild pitch that allowed VanLeeuwe to score Marshall's sixth run, but after that, Jones shut down the Tigers' offense. She gave up just one hit in four innings and struck out four batters.
"It's a little tough with a slower pitcher to make an adjustment, but they have to be patient and wait for those pitches at the thigh," Houseman said of his batters. "We didn't do a very good job of that, but we continued to hit balls at people. Those will start falling in. We had some nice-hit balls, they were just right at somebody."
Meanwhile, Graff was battling on the mound. Two Braves batters got on base in the second, third and fourth innings, but Graff got through each inning unscathed by using her defense.
Houseman said Graff made things a bit hard on herself at times, as she was unable to work ahead of batters.
"She still struggles a little bit with getting behind batters and then having to come back with too good of a pitch in 3-1 counts or 3-0 counts," Houseman said of Graff, who finished with seven strikeouts, but surrendered five walks and hit two batters. "We're still working on it and she's young."
The Braves (4-6 overall) didn't let their opportunities go to waste over the final three innings, where they connected for 12 of their 18 hits. Schmidgall led the offense with five hits on the day with a double and four RBIs.
Marshall resumes Southwest Conference play on Thursday with a doubleheader against Pipestone Area in Pipestone. The Arrows are a perfect 10-0 on the season, including 8-0 in conference action.