Sluggers take momentum to state

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 19, 2003

The Albert Lea Sluggers 14-and-under fast-pitch softball team gathered momentum heading into the state tournament with a 3-1 week.

At Stewartville, game one was a see-saw affair with the teams trading leads throughout. It would end with a bases-loaded walk that gave Stewartville an 8-7 win.

Liz Thompson took the pitching loss. She was victimized by some miscues in the field from her teammates and a shrunken strike zone as Thompson, known as a control pitcher, issued nine walks. Slugger hitters were led by Marisa Cottrell with three hits. Adding one safety each were Evin Sather, Hali Hendrickson and Claire Paczkowski. Sather scored two runs.

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Determined to break out of a season-long, three-game losing streak, the Sluggers used walks from Stewartville pitching, along with the bunt and some aggressive base running, to gain a split with a 13-9 win in the second game.

Thompson was the winning pitcher. She struck out five in getting her 10th victory of the season.

Jordan Malimanek scored three runs and had one hit to lead a balanced offensive attack. Six other girls contributed one hit each including Hali Hendrickson, Cottrell, Sather, Shelby Vietze, Missy Webb and Paczkowski. Cottrell enjoyed a perfect night at the plate reaching base all six times she batted with four hits, including a double, and two walks.

The locals traveled to Rochester to play the Aces. The Sluggers fell behind in both games only to come back and gain wins each time.

In game one the Aces had a 2-0 lead after the first when the Sluggers were able to push across eight second-inning runs to take the lead for good.

Webb led the offensive attack with three hits and three runs scored. Thompson also had three hits and Sather had two. Getting one hit each were Hali Hendrickson, Chelsea Barrett, Cottrell, Niki Hendrickson, Dezi Jacobs, and Malimanek as each member of the Slugger starting lineup contributed at least one hit. Thompson, with four strikeouts, gained her 11th win in a 16-3 victory.

The Slugger defense turned in a key double play in the first inning to snuff out a potential big inning for the Aces. With runners on second and third, Hali Hendrickson fielded a smash to third, checked the lead runner, then fired across the diamond to record the first out. Niki Hendrickson then threw home to catcher Barrett, who easily tagged out the runner at the plate. Jaclyn Rehmke also turned in a nice defensive play with a back-handed catch of a drive hit to center field in the fifth.

Rochester again took a first-inning lead in game two. This time they held a 12-4 lead going into the bottom of the fourth inning when Slugger bats exploded for a season-high 12 runs. A single run by the Aces in the fifth wasn’t enough and the Sluggers left town with a doubleheader sweep, winning 16-13.

Shelby Vietze led the barrage by getting two hits and scoring three runs. Jacobs also scored three runs and had one hit. Rehmke, Cottrell and Sather each had two hits in the contest with Niki Hendrickson, Thompson, Barrett, and Malimanek adding one hit. Jacobs was the beneficiary of the big inning and recorded four strikeouts in getting her first win of the season. Sather pitched the final inning.

The Sluggers have a 17-7 record heading into the state tournament this weekend. The team concludes with home doubleheaders Monday and Wednesday.