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Extraordinary hitting gets St. Croix Central softball into the win column

A season’s worth of pent up offense spilled out when the St. Croix Central softball team took on Spring Valley on Friday.

The Panthers bashed out a season’s worth of offense on Friday: 34 hits and 26 runs. They needed every one too. The game was tied after seven innings. The Panthers scored six times in the eighth inning and pitcher Abby Harrington kept Spring Valley scoreless in the bottom of the eighth to give the Panthers their first win of the season, 26-20.

The frustrations of a difficult season poured out as the Panthers celebrated following the win.

“It was like we won the World Series,” said Central coach Mindy Rudiger. “It was indescribable.”

The Panthers have scored five or more runs in seven of their 17 losses leading into Friday’s win, but they took the offensive production to a whole new level in this game. The Panthers were on their eighth time through the batting order when the game was finally completed after three hours.

The offensive numbers the Panthers amassed are staggering. Every starter had at least two hits. The hit parade was led by Jami Ruvelson, Marissa Arthur and Cassie Claessens, who each produced five hits. Angel Vermeersch reached base six times on three hits and three walks. Ana Erickson and Sadie Buckel each had four hits. One of Buckel’s hits was a three-run homer during the Panthers’ six-run second inning.

Arthur scored five times and Vermeersch crossed the plate four times.

The Panthers couldn’t relax because Spring Valley was matching them run-for-run. Spring Valley led 2-1 after the first inning. Both teams scored six times in the second. Spring Valley carried a 19-14 lead into the seventh inning, before the Panthers scored six times in the top of the inning. The Panthers then had to hang on when the Cards scored once in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game again.

Spring Valley had only 15 hits in the game (only), but took full advantage of the Panthers’ generosity. Central pitchers issued 19 walks in the game and the Panthers committed seven errors.

Rudiger said the big offensive game was the product of a changed attitude by the Panther players.

“They went into the box with the mindset that we’re going to hit the ball,” she said.

The win couldn’t have come at a better time for the Panthers because they’d survived one of their low points of the season the night before. Not only did they lose to Elk Mound 13-1, but their bus broke down on the drive home and the Panthers had to stand along the highway for an hour waiting for a replacement bus to take them home.

The Panthers were limited to three hits in the loss. Arthur, Megan Edelman and Katie Kolakowski got the hits and Kolakowski drove home the only Panther run. The Panthers cut their errors to three in this game, but Elk Mound didn’t need them.

“They are a good hitting team,” Rudiger said.

The Panthers were hoping their first win would come last Tuesday when they hosted Mondovi. The Panthers put up a game effort, but defense again sunk their hopes as Mondovi scored a 12-8 win.

Harrington pitched solidly for the Panthers, giving up eight hits and four walks in throwing the complete game. None of Mondovi’s 12 runs were earned as the Panthers committed six costly errors.

Four of the errors came in the sixth inning. The game was tied until those errors allowed Mondovi to score seven runs in the sixth inning.

Rudiger said a lack of practice time has made it difficult for the Panthers to work on their defense, but she plans to use every free minute to shore up the team’s defensive basic skills.

“They’re not seeing the ball into the glove. We have to minimize our errors and free passes,” she said.

The defensive issues took the tarnish off a nice offensive effort. Ruvelson had three hits in the game and Buckel, Arthur and Harrington each had two hits. Buckel drove in three of the Panthers’ runs.

This Thursday, the Panthers begin play in the WIAA Division 2 regional tournament. They’ll see a familiar face in the opposing dugout. The Panthers are the seventh seed in the regional bracket and they will play at the second seed, New Richmond. That game will start at 5 p.m. New Richmond is coached by Emily Dabrowski, who served as St. Croix Central’s assistant coach last season. The winner of Thursday’s game will be in action again next Tuesday, facing the winner of Thursday’s game between Altoona and Somerset.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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