First inning foils Tigers softball

Published 2:27 am Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Albert Lea softball team was as relentless as the rain and the wind Tuesday against Faribault at the Hammer Sports Complex, but the Tigers weren’t able to overcome a three-run first inning by the Falcons in a 7-6 loss in the final regular season game.

The last time Albert Lea (5-16, 1-16 Big Nine) played in similar conditions the Tigers rallied from an early 5-0 deficit against Kasson-Mantoville at a tournament in New Richland to win the game 6-5, it was their last victory. But the Falcons (7-10, 6-7 Big Nine) pushed an insurance run across in the seventh inning to hang on for the win.

A critical play came during the first inning when Albert Lea catcher Courtney Schnaith fired to third baseman Caylee Tennis in a pickoff attempt at third. It appeared Tennis made the tag before the runner reached the base but the umpire ruled the runner safe and Faribault went on to score two more runs in the inning. It would have been the final out of the inning.

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“I think the thing that really got us was when they scored three runs in the first inning and two of them came after what should have been the third out called,” Tigers head coach Chad Feikema said. “That hurt us a little bit.”

Falcons catcher Jamie Cross also hurt Albert Lea. Cross went 4-for-4 with three RBIs and three extra base hits, including two triples. She also scored twice and drove in what proved to be the game winning run in the seventh inning when she followed a leadoff double from Emily Dell with a triple.

After having just three base runners against Owatonna in a doubleheader last Thursday, Albert Lea connected for six base hits and had a pair of quality scoring opportunities in the game.

The Tigers scored three runs in the fifth inning, but had the bases loaded with one out before popping out and grounding out to second base to end the inning. Then in the sixth inning Tennis drew a walk with two outs to load the bases but Albert Lea couldn’t find a hit which would have tied the game.

“To come out and swing much better and to have some base runners and some scoring opportunities — a big step for us and something that we’ll continue to work on,” Feikema said.

In her final home start, senior Nichelle Klatt gave the Tigers seven solid innings and consistently found the strike zone.

“I thought Nichelle pitched really well — threw strikes and gave us an opportunity there,” Feikema said. “A strong outing from her, that was a big part of it.”

Klatt struck out seven and walked just two while giving up seven runs on eight hits.

Albert Lea finishes the season with five wins, one more than last season and will wait until May 20 to play again for the section playoffs.

Faribault 7, Albert Lea 6

Faribault 320 010 1 — 7 8 3

Albert Lea 002 030 1 — 6 6 0

WP — Lauren Langerud 5 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 K

LP — Nichelle Klatt 7 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 7 K