MELISSA – In his team’s final tune-up before district play, Melissa head coach Eric Rodgers got just what he asked for – well, almost more than he asked for.
“When I scheduled (Sanger), this is what I was hoping for — a tough team to test us before we go to district,” he said.
A test this was indeed, as the teams were knotted at 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth when Lady Cardinal sophomore Audrey Solomon stepped to the plate. Alexis Pevehouse had singled toward third to open the frame, followed by a Kylee Brakebill single to right. With the “test” clearly at hand, Solomon proceeded to smash a 1-1 pitch deep to left field that cleared the fence just inside the foul pole. As the Lady Cards rounded the bases for a 5-2 lead and Melissa’s dugout erupted, Rodgers surely assigned his charges an “A.”
“I tell them all the time, ‘If we score four or more, we’re going to win,’” he said. “There hasn’t been that many times this year that we’ve given up more than four. And it got a little tight right there. Audrey, she hadn’t had a very good night until then — a strikeout and a fly ball — and then she put that one over the fence. It was fun to watch go.”
But after Solomon’s blast, Melissa wasn’t completely out of the woods. The Lady Indians loaded the bases in the seventh on three singles, followed by a fourth that scored a run. (Three of the four hits were the “seeing-eye” variety, finding just the right spot on the left side.) The next batter grounded back to Lady Cards pitcher Pevehouse, who gunned down the runner at home for the second out. Then with runners at second and third, and the go-ahead run at the plate, a dangerous looking fly ball was lofted to right field. Melissa’s Kennedy Eanes, though, chased it down for the clutch final out.
Pevehouse went the distance this night, striking out seven while sprinkling seven hits for three earned runs.
“She did well,” Rodgers said. “Her in the circle is going to be what helps us going forward in district, and the defense behind her. I think we played pretty clean tonight, which I’m pretty proud of since we’ve been off. We haven’t played since last Saturday. Hitting-wise, we got better as the game went on and that’s basically what you ask for.”
Another defensive highlight for the Lady Cards was a tough over-the-back-catch by Solomon from her shortstop position in the fifth inning.
Kimberlin Hopson swung the biggest stick for Sanger this night, with two hits and two RBIs in two at-bats. On the mound, Kat Wells tossed a complete game for the Lady Indians, allowing five hits and five earned runs while striking out five.
Pevehouse opened Melissa’s half of the first inning with double lifted to center field. Brakebill then stepped up and ripped a triple down the first-base line to score Pevehouse. That 2-0 lead stood till the fourth, when Sanger started cooking. Katelynn Stamper preheated the oven with a line-drive triple to right and, after a hit-batter, Hopson served the entrée with a two-out, two-strike double to left that scored both runners.
The Lady Indians followed that by shutting down Melissa in the bottom of the fourth on three nice grabs of outfield flies. And there the score remained until Solomon and Company did their own cooking – home style. Rodgers said he’s pleased with where the Lady Cards are as district play looms.
“Everybody we come around, somebody usually comments on how scrappy they are and how much fun they seem to have,” Rodgers said.