Warriors too much for Tigers
The Rice Lake Warriors softball team finds itself in a familiar position -- playing for a sectional championship. For the seventh straight season, the Warriors have won the WIAA Division 2 regional title, the latest with a 10-1 win over the North...
The Rice Lake Warriors softball team finds itself in a familiar position -- playing for a sectional championship.
For the seventh straight season, the Warriors have won the WIAA Division 2 regional title, the latest with a 10-1 win over the Northwestern Tigers Friday afternoon in Maple.
The Warriors, 12-11 on the season, scored all the runs they needed with a three-run third inning and a seven-run fourth, which included six hits and four Tiger errors.
"We gave them too many outs and they hit the ball well, too," NHS coach Rees Flint said. "That's a bad combination and they made us pay for it."
Northwestern's only run came in the fourth inning as Anna Morgan doubled and eventually scored on Kristina Korhonen's sacrifice bunt.
The Tigers finish the season with a 19-2 record. Their only other loss came against Cumberland, 5-4, at home.
"I told the girls that we were in a win-win situation," Flint said. "We had a tremendous season and if we happened to lose, they had nothing to hang their heads about."
The Tigers finished with five hits, two by Morgan, a freshman, and one each by Shelly Schneider, Korhonen and Hannah Paquette.
Ashley Stodola picked up the win for Rice Lake, finishing with four strikeouts and not allowing a walk.
Larissa Flint started for the Tigers, allowing 10 runs on seven hits while striking out one in 3 2/3 innings. Lindsay Garay finished up, pitching 3 1/3 scoreless innings.
After giving up back-to-back singles in the fourth, Garay retired the next seven batters on ground outs. She allowed a pair of hits in the seventh inning, but two strikeouts helped keep Rice Lake from adding to its lead.
"I didn't think Lindsay had that good of an outing against Ashland, so I started Larissa," Flint said. "I was going to just go a couple of innings then change pitchers, but. ... But you know, hind sight is 50-50.
"I thought they both threw hard and if we make some plays it's still going to be a lot closer game than the score indicated."
Rice Lake had 11 hits, led by Sam Walker, who had a two hits and three RBIs. Venessa Williger, Megan Stodola and Rachel Tomesh added a pair of hits each and Briana Myers, Renee Huset and Jenna Bednar had one hit apiece.
"I was surprised they hit Larissa the way they did," Rice Lake coach Gary Haus said. "If they would have started the other girl (Garay), I don't know, we didn't hit her very well.
"We have a pretty good hitting team, but we face live pitching everyday. Usually this time of year we peak, and that's happening again."
Rice Lake also defeated Northwestern in last year's regional final.
"They had the game won last year and let it get away from them," Haus said. "This year, I was more prepared as a coach. We know they're a good team, we just caught them at the right time. I give them credit, they have a good coach and they're heading in the right direction."
Before Rice Lake blew the game open, the Tigers had their chances to score with runners on first and third in the second inning. But a double play at first base and a ground out kept the game scoreless until the Warriors came to bat in the next inning.
"We missed a sign," Flint said. "We had the steal on but the girl swung away and there was a double play on the pop up. Who knows, maybe we score first there and then you get the momentum on our side."
Four seniors played their final games for the Tigers: Shelly Schneider, Flint, Korhonen and Erin Malinoski.
"Four great girls, great leaders on and off the field," Flint said. "I've been telling the parents that a lot of our wins the last four years have been because we've always had good senior leadership coming back and these guys were no different."
TIGER TALES: Rice Lake was won seven straight regional championships and played in the sectional championship six times. They won the WIAA D2 state championship in 2004. ... The sectional semifinals and finals are Thursday in Altoona.