St. Croix Central softball team hopes to shake off slump
A bleak week for the St. Croix Central softball team ended with a glimmer of hope.
In Saturday’s tournament, the Panthers were competitive in games with Northwood and Amery. All the games were scheduled to last for five innings. In the opening game against Northwood, which is located in Minong, the Panthers led heading into the fifth with a 5-1 lead. Northwood scored four times in the fifth inning, forcing the game into extra innings. The Evergreens scored four more runs in the sixth to win 9-5.
The Panthers began to show some offensive spark in this game, led by catcher Marissa Arthur. Arthur drilled a homer over the leftfield fence in the second inning, starting a three-run rally. Walks by Rachel Larson, Nicole Nogal and Jami Ruvelson and a single by Abby Harrington were combined to produce two more runs in the inning.The lead was expanded to 5-1 in the fourth inning. Singles by Ana Erickson and Ruvelson started the inning. Erickson scored on a passed ball and Ruvelson scored on Megan Edelman’s groundout.The Panthers had more chances to score, getting runners to third base in the fourth and fifth innings, only to see them stranded there.Harrington pitched the game for the Panthers, striking out 10 batters and walking seven.In the second round, the Panthers fell behind Amery 6-0 in the first two innings. The Panthers fought back to make this an exciting finish. Central scored twice in the second inning, with singles by Erickson and Ruvelson keying the success.Katie Kolakowski delivered Central’s second homer of the day in the third inning on a blast to centerfield.Trailing 9-3, the Panthers could have easily given up. Instead, they rallied for three runs in the final inning and threatened for more. Singles from Arthur, Cassie Claessens, Erickson and Ruvelson gave the Panthers a desperately needed reason to be excited.“It was exciting to string some hits together and create and generate some runs,” said Panther coach Mindy Rudiger.Erickson and Ruvelson led the offense, going 3-3 as the first two hitters in the Panther lineup.The Panthers needed Saturday’s uplifting games after discouraging showings against Somerset, Boyceville and Glenwood City last week. The Panthers lost to Somerset 15-1 on Friday. The losses to Somerset and Amery mean the Panthers will likely be the bottom seeded team when the Division 2 regional tournament bracket is decided this Wednesday. The good news is the top seed in the bracket receives a bye. That means the Panthers wouldn’t have to face defending sectional champion Baldwin-Woodville in the opening round.Central was limited to three hits by Somerset. Kolakowski scored Central’s only run after doubling in the fourth inning.Defense was the Panthers’ undoing against Somerset. The Panthers committed nine errors in the game.The results weren’t any better when the Panthers lost 10-0 to Boyceville last Tuesday.Rudiger said the Panthers are going back to basics in practices in hopes of shaking off the team’s hitting slump. The Panthers still have four conference games left on their schedule. The first of them takes place this Friday, when they play at Dunn-St. Croix Conference co-leader Elk Mound. The Panthers then face two games with Spring Valley. They’ll play at Spring Valley on Friday before hosting the Cards next Monday. The Panthers conclude their regular season next Tuesday when they host Elmwood-Plum City.