Rebels slide past Spartans
April 13, 2017
Moose Lake/Willow River Rebels softball head coach Kelly Goeb put Nashwauk-Keewatin on the schedule so her girls could bat against some excellent pitching and she got all she asked for. In what was primarily a pitching duel between two of the Northland's premiere throwers, the Rebels were able to take advantage of the last of N-K's two errors and literally slid past the Spartans in MLWR's last at-bat to come back from a run down and eke out a 2-1 win at Willow River for the home opener of Friday, April 7. The Rebels improved to 3-0 while the Spartans went to 1-1.
Rebel Ally Bode was crafty. The senior star had superior control as she mixed up speeds and trusted her defense to earn the win. Bode struck out nine while issuing no walks and allowing only two infield singles with no earned runs. N-K's lone run came on a fielder's choice by Joy Lebine in the sixth inning. With seventh-grader Natalie Mikrot taking on the tough task of being MLWR's new starting catcher, the Spartans had only one steal. N-K stranded three of its four runners in scoring position, including Bode twice pitching out of trouble with a Spartan on third.
The Spartans' fast-baller, Aubrey Nelson, frequently climbed the ladder by going from the shins to the shoulders. Her wicked rise-ball gave MLWR batters fits as she struck out 13. Nelson only walked one and she allowed only one earned run.
The Rebels kept at it and were able to get to the N-K pitcher for five hits. MLWR was very aggressive and heads-up on the bat paths. Veteran volunteer assistant coach Mark Carlson worked from first base and did a great job making the most of six base runners as he sent four and the efforts yielded four successful steals. Although MLWR stranded five, including four in scoring position, the persistence finally paid off as it was the last steal that ended up scoring the tying run in the bottom of the seventh.
MLWR senior lefty Nicole Newham played a lead role on offense. Newham stroked the game-tying RBI single and she scored the game-winning run. Freshman lefty lead-off Jamie Benzie had two singles and a steal. Junior clean-up hitter Josie Benzie had a single and a steal. Senior designated player Marissa Mikrot had a single. Senior flex Sage Gerard pinch ran and she had a steal and scored the game-tying run. Sophomore Dallis Kukuk, cast into the role of the Rebels' new shortstop, had a walk and a steal.
Kukuk worked for a walk and stole, but she was stranded in the bottom of the second. Jamie Benzie gave her great bunting skills two tries in the bottom of the third. After two fouls straight back, she was able to spank a single up the middle for MLWR's first hit and she stole, but she was stranded.
Josie Benzie was able to slice a single down the opposite field line in the bottom of the fourth and she successfully stole, but she became MLWR's third runner stranded in scoring position.
Newham reached on the Spartans' first error on her grounder to second. Jamie Benzie hustled out an infield roller for her second single of the game. The Rebels tried a bit of trickery by having both runners go about half way on a potential double steal, but the Spartans did not bite and Bode went down swinging for Nelson's 10th strikeout. MLWR stranded two, including its fourth runner in scoring position.
The Spartans' first hit came in the form as an infield single in the top of the sixth. Natalie Mikrot got called for bat interference and the hitter was awarded first base and the runner was advanced to second. An odd chop by the lead-off slapper out in front of the plate became an infield hit. With bases loaded, head coach Goeb called time. A passed ball went only about halfway back. Mikrot scampered after it and made a perfect toss back to Bode to apply a solid shoulder tag on the sliding runner. The Spartans took a 1-0 lead on a fielder's choice RBI by Lebine. N-K ended up stranding its second runner on third, but the Spartans had a one run edge and the Rebels had only two at-bats remaining.
MLWR went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the sixth, but the Rebels responded with their fifth 1-2-3 defensive inning in the top of the seventh.
Marissa Mikrot was content to make contact and dropped a single over third for the Rebels' fourth hit. Gerard pinch-ran and her steal was MLWR's fourth theft. Newham stroked a solid single up the middle and Gerard galloped around and came in standing up on the late throw for 1-1. Newham alertly took second. Natalie Mikrot grounded to the right side. Coach Carlson had Newham off and running. A toss to a throw seemed to be a little low and perhaps too hard to the first baseman. The ball skipped off her mitt for N-K's second error. Head coach Goeb was at third base and she wind-milled Newham around from the get-go. Newham slid in safe ahead of a late throw for the winning run as the Rebels got the come-from-behind 2-1 victory on their last at-bat.
The Rebels are at Silver Bay on Tuesday, April 18. MLWR sank the Mariners 17-7 last year. The Rebels host Carlton on Thursday, April 20, in Willow River. The Bulldogs nipped MLWR 3-2 for one of the Rebels' six losses last year. Both games are scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m.