MORRIS – The fundamental job of the leadoff hitter is to get onbase. Once that job is achieved, the next job is to create havoc on the bases, opening up opportunity for the rest of the team as the defense is moving.
Consider Maddy Feeney’s job done perfectly Tuesday.
Feeney, the Redskin softball team’s leadoff hitter, went 3 for 3 with a triple, three RBIs, three stolen bases and a run scored as Morris cruised to a 10-0, five-inning win over Sandwich in the semifinal of the Class 3A Morris Regional. Morris plays the winner of Wednesday’s LaSalle-Peru vs. Ottawa matchup in Saturday’s 11 a.m. title game.
“The plan is to make the other team make plays,” Feeney said who had two bunt singles and a triple to right. “I don’t like it when the other teams move in like that. It gets me mad, and then I want to hit it over their heads. It feels good when I can do that. Then the next time, they play back, so I lay a bunt down.”
Feeney’s two-run triple in the second inning highlighted a three-run outburst and scored Leah Lines and Kelly Kolotka. Earlier, Kolotka drove in courtesy runner Jasmine Cook with a fielder’s choice, Lines being safe at second on the play.
After a scoreless third, Morris (19-9) erupted for six in the fourth. Again, Feeney was instrumental, as she bunted for a single with Kolotka on second after an RBI double. Before the Sandwich pitcher got back in the circle, Feeney took off for second. As the Indians fruitlessly made the play on her, Kolotka stole home with another run. RBIs in the inning also came from Kellen Bernickus, Lauren Severson and Alex Cook. Feeney drove in the game’s final run in the bottom of the fifth when she hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Bernickus, who led off with a double and went to third on a fly to center by Kolotka.
Besides Feeney’s three hits, Morris, which had 11 hits in all, got a pair of doubles from Severson, two hits by Lines and two hits, including a double, by Bernickus.
While the Morris offense was clicking on all cylinders, so was pitcher Abby Burns and the Redskins defense. Burns had a stretch of five straight strikeouts and finished with eight strikeouts in a three-hit shutout.
In the fourth inning, shortstop Lines, second baseman Taya Torkelson and first baseman Cook turned a nifty 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
“It’s a lot easier to pitch when I know the defense is going to play like that,” Burns said. “I can just let the other team hit it and I know our girls are going to make the play.
“We struggled a bit the last few weeks, but it feels like we’re back now.”
That was exactly the sentiment of Morris coach Jen Lowery.
“It felt like the team we started the year with came back tonight,” she said, referring to the Redskins’ 16-1 record to begin the season. “When Maddy Feeney is on offensively, she is very hard to get out. She can play small ball or long ball, which you saw [Tuesday].
“That just gets the momentum going early. We want to make the other team do the work and see what happens. If you put the ball in play hard, good things usually happen for you, and they did tonight.
“Mentally, we were here 100 percent [Tuesday]. It’s a new season, and we were 0-0 coming in. We were fresh and ready to go. Now, we get to watch the next game and have two days to practice before Saturday. It sets up nice for us.”