by Eric Oslund
The Spectrum softball team finished the regular season with a 13-4 record, and were awarded the No. 3 seed in their section. That meant they had the opportunity to host their first round game on Friday, May 19, against Eden Valley-Watkins.
Defensively, the game started out great for the Sting. They retired their opponent’s first six batters in order, which included three straight strike outs in the second inning from Ellie Rogers.
The problem for the Sting was that their bats didn’t get going right away, as they normally have, which led to a slow night overall for them. Eden Valley-Watkins’ pitcher wasn’t over powering by any means, but the Sting players had trouble with her all game.
“A couple of them you could just see them in the box hoping for a walk rather than knowing they can hit,” head coach Rob Rogers said. “Nerves overcame them and confidence is everything in sports. If you’re not confident in the field or at the plate we’re in trouble.”
One reason why the nerves really seemed to kick in for the girls is because their two big hitters didn’t have a big first inning. Ellie Rogers leads off for the Sting, and she started the game with a walk. Elizabeth Hackbarth then follows her up and she started the game by flying out to the infield.
Those two are the ones that usually set the tone for their teammates on offense, and when they start slow, the team usually follows.
“We’re certainly kind of a team where if Ellie or Elizabeth get a great hit right away in the beginning of the game, it builds confidence for everybody else,” Rob Rogers explained. “But when Ellie gets walked and Elizabeth pops out, our confidence builder didn’t happen. The other girls aren’t sure where to go with that, and we’ve seen that over the years.”
After two innings of play it seemed as though it was going to be a low scoring game, and both Ellie Rogers and Hackbarth were due up in the third inning, ready to provide that spark the team had been looking for, but then tragety struck.
The Sting weren’t the only team looking for a big hit to fire up the offense, and Eden Valley-Watkins was able to get their big hit in the top of the third. A triple by their No. 7 batter to start off the inning.
“It wasn’t their big hitters. The girl just hit the ball really well and everyone was like, ‘We can hit this ball.’ Then started rolling,” Rob Rogers said. “We never had that time where we just felt like, ‘Yeah, we can get this rolling.’ By the time we had our first hit, we were already down by eight runs. It’s a game of momentum and confidence, and the girls just didn’t have that confidence today.”
Eden Valley-Watkins would send 12 batters to the plate in that third inning, scoring eight runs. It was a devistating inning, and the Sting would need to respond quickly if they hoped to stay in the game.
Makayla Morrell was able to get on base via a walk to start the bottom of the third, and then Ellie Rogers would get on base after getting hit by a pitch. Hackbarth then got a single, and suddenly it appeared the Sting were ready for a big inning themselves.
They had the bases loaded with no outs, but then recorded two straight strikeouts and a ground out to end the inning, stranding three runners and not scoring a single run.
That was the team’s best chance to get back in the game, but instead they ended up falling 12-0 in six innings of play. A difficult loss to have in the first round of the section tournament, but at the end of the day softball is just a small piece of these girls’ lives, and that’s what their head coach always tries to remind them.
“I’ve coached for a lot of teams, and our big topic this year is we try to preach that the person is greater than the player,” Rob Rogers began. “So who you are, your character, is far more important than how many hits you had today. I can say, without a doubt, in terms of character, this is the best team I’ve ever coached. These girls are just solid, and they know who they are.”