WABASSO - Superb pitching and a supportive defensive effort carried the Wabasso Rabbits to a pair of wins on their home field to open the Section 3A softball playoffs on Tuesday.
Kimberly Frank tossed a one-hit shutout as the Rabbits rolled past Southwestern United 6-0 to open the day. Frank gave up a few more hits against Windom Area in the nightcap, but the Rabbits were able to make the plays when they mattered en route to a 3-1 victory over the Eagles.
Southwestern United's Rachel Mathias broke up Frank's no-hit bid with a two-out single in the seventh inning, but only after an error. The hit mattered little, however, as Wabasso still picked up the win.
"Kimberly did alright today," said Wabasso head coach John VanLoy. "In the first game she did really well with just that one hit, and of course it was after an error so it probably would have been a no-hitter. But it made her realize that she was part of a team and not just herself out on the mound."
No. 2 seed Wabasso scored six runs off of six hits against Southwestern United, including four in the bottom of the second.
Erin Liebl blasted a two-run homer for the game's first runs. With the way Frank was pitching, the runs from Liebl's home run would have been sufficient, but the Wabasso pitcher added a two-run shot of her own two batters later.
SW United000 000 0-0 1 0
Wabasso041 010 X-6 6 2
SWU-Ida Rogers-Ferguson; W-Kimberly Frank. WP-Frank. LP-Rogers-Ferguson. HR: W-Frank, Erin Liebl.
Windom000 010 0-1 5 1
Wabasso100 100 X-3 4 0
Win-Meghan Vesey; Wab-Kimberly Frank. WP-Frank. LP-Vesey. 2B: Win-Megan Theesfeld, Sutton Dewanz; Wab-Kendra Eichten. LOB: Win-5; Wab-7.
The Rabbits tacked on a run in the third and fifth innings as well, ending the Wildcats' season in the process.
Wabasso scraped together just four hits in their 3-1 win over Windom. Rather than rely on the long ball as they had in the opener, the Rabbits played small ball, bunting and stealing their way to victory.
"We actually started that way with Southwestern United, then Erin came up big for us with that first one and Kimberly to follow," VanLoy said. "But sometimes you just have to change gears.
"We had to do that today to make sure we scored some runs. The big hits weren't coming today, so it was like we had to get people on and move them around to put pressure on the other team."
Frank led off the game for the Rabbits with a bunt single, advancing to second on an overthrow. She then stole third and scored on Ellen Franta's ground out to the shortstop.
Windom looked to have tied the game in the top of the second, when Sutton Dewanz tagged up on a pop up beyond first base. Desi Kramer's throw arrived just in time for Liebl to block the plate and apply the tag, preserving the 1-0 Wabasso lead.
Kramer drove in the eventual winning run, when her single scored Callie Rohlik in the bottom of the fourth to put the Rabbits up 2-0.
Windom finally broke through in the fifth inning. Megan Theesfeld smashed a ground-rule double to straightaway center field before stealing third base. Jasmine Carlson followed up a pair of strikeouts with a single to score Theesfeld. Windom would see just one more runner reach base, however, as Frank retired seven of the next eight batters she faced.
"Tonight, give credit to Windom. They have some scrappy little hitters," VanLoy said. "(Kimberly) worked a little high in the zone in the Windom game and that's why they were hitting the ball as well as they were, I thought. But we go as she goes and that's how it is."
Frank finished the second game with seven strikeouts and two walks in seven innings of work. She allowed just one run on five hits.
Shawna Rogotzke singled and scored the final run for Wabasso in the bottom of the fifth, reaching home on Kendra Eichten's two-out double.
Despite the two wins, Wabasso had just 10 hits on the day. VanLoy said that must change if the Rabbits are going to continue to advance in the postseason.
"We've got to hit better than we did. That's the biggest thing for me right now," he said. "Other than that, we played pretty sound defensively. Just hit better, get some sleep and get up (to Cottonwood) with a good mental attitude."
Weather forced the postponement of the Section 3A-North games on Tuesday, so Wabasso does not know who it will play on Saturday. The Rabbits do know, however, that they will take the field in Cottonwood at 12:30 p.m.