For the first four innings of Wednesday’s softball game, things couldn’t have worked out much better for the Kaneland Lady Knights. In that span of the Northern Illinois Big 12 East contest, Morris had fallen behind by eight runs and was on the verge of the run-rule.
While the Redskins rally eventually came up short, the locals actually got the potential tying run to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning before dropping a 9-6 game to visiting Kaneland.
“We came out strong and then coasted,” Kaneland coach Brian Willis said. “The girls need to understand that they can’t coast against anyone. Give Morris credit, they didn’t quit.”
At one point it did look like the Knights were going to be able to coast to their third league win of the spring. After a scoreless first, Kaneland scored twice in the second, four times in the third and two more in the fourth to lead 8-0.
In the second, Sarah Grams and Hayley Contorino each singled and after a sacrifice bunt, Meg Cohrs collected an RBI single and Contorino ended up scoring on an error by the right fielder. In the third, Lexi Roach reached on a bunt single, stole second and scored on an RBI single by Paige Kuefler. After Lanie Callaghan singled, Grams then homered to left-center to make the score 6-0 at the time. In the fourth, Cohrs singled and went to second on a wild pitch and Courtney Davis reached on an error by the Morris shortstop. Roach then hit a comebacker to Morris pitcher Erica Gualandi and reached when Gualandi unsuccessfully got Cohrs going back to third. Ultimately, though, Callaghan came through with an RBI single and the score grew to 8-0.
Morris only had two hits up until that point against Kaneland freshman pitcher Davis. Lauren Severson had doubled in the third and Gualandi singled in the fourth.
“We just weren’t seeing the ball at all,” Morris coach Jen Lowery said. “She’s a bit slower pitcher than we’ve faced recently. We told the kids to keep their hands back … she (Davis) was also throwing the ball outside and we also told them to go with it, which is tough to do against a slow pitcher.”
Still, Morris got on the board in the fifth inning when Severson reached on an error followed by a Maddy Feeney single.
While Severson was eventually thrown out at home on the play, Feeney took second and scored on an RBI double by Laney Torkelson. The inning ended when Torkelson was thrown out trying to stretch her double into a single.
Kaneland got its final run in the top of the sixth against Gualandi before Kelly Kolotka came on in relief and retired four of the five batter she faced.
Meanwhile, Morris scored three times in the sixth, but also had another runner thrown out at the plate in the frame. Taya Torkelson started the inning by reaching on an error by the Kaneland third baseman and Molly Fruland singled. A wild pitch moved the runners up a base before Kellen Bernickus reached on an RBI fielder’s choice. Leah Lines then doubled but Fruland was thrown out at the plate trying to score. Kolotka then had an RBI groundout and Lines scored on a wild pitch for the third run.
“Unfortunately it was too little, too late,” Morris coach Jen Lowery said. “But they didn’t give up and played through every out and pitch to the very end.”
Morris scored two runs in the seventh to account for the final score. In that inning with one out, Feeney walked and Laney Torkelson singled. Taya Torkelson then reached on an RBI ground out. Fruland kept the inning going with an RBI single and Bernickus was hit by a pitched ball before Davis got Lines to fly out to left to end the game.
Given the comeback by Morris, it may have been even better had the Redskins not had two girls thrown out at home, one at third and another called for baserunner’s interference when they were down 8-0 in the middle innings.
“The baserunning was unacceptable. Our heads were not on the basepaths at all today,” Lowery said. “A lot of if is them understanding the situations and reading the ball. We point these things out to them and they know that these are the mistakes that are killing us. It’s every game. We work on it every day in practice but it still ends up killing us.”
Gualandi was the losing pitcher. She went 5 1/3 innings allowing 10 hits and one walk while striking out four. Three of the nine runs she allowed were unearned. Kolotka then finished as Morris mounted it’s late bid for a win.
“Kelly’s very dependable,” Lowery said. “She’s got such a positive attitude out there, I think her being in control out there at the end helped give the team a lift.”
Kaneland is now 10-2 overall and 3-1 in the NIB12E. Morris, meanwhile, falls to 4-10 overall and 2-3 in league play.