Tigers softball implodes in late innings

Published 2:32 am Friday, April 16, 2010

The Albert Lea softball team still hasn’t found a way to win close ballgames and imploded twice Thursday against Faribault in a doubleheader at Hammer Field.

The Tigers squandered two leads late and several other scoring opportunities, which led to a 4-3 loss in the first game and an extra-inning game that was suspended due to darkness after the 10th inning with the score tied 3-3.

Faribault (2-2, 2-2 Big Nine) rallied from an early 3-0 deficit in the fifth and sixth innings in the first game for 4-3 come-from-behind victory and in the second game forced extra innings with a two-run rally in the top of the seventh inning.

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“This is a tough conference and if you don’t play seven innings they’re going to come back and get you,” said Tigers head coach Dan Harms.

Albert Lea (0-3, 0-3 Big Nine) failed to play seven innings in both games and let Faribault back into the game twice as it couldn’t win a close game, much like last season where the Tigers lost four one-run ballgames.

Albert Lea looked poised for its first victory of the season in the second game and held a 2-0 lead entering the top of the seventh, but three consecutive Falcons hits erased the the lead. Maggie Stoeckel connected for a double to drive in Jenna Henry and Shelby Salmonsen to tie the game.

Senior Kristine Kelly scored on an error in the first inning to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead and Amanda Westcott drew a bases loaded walk in the sixth to extend it to a 2-0 lead. But Albert Lea squandered several opportunities to put the game away earlier.

The Tigers left 11 baserunners stranded, including the bases loaded three times, but none more important than in the 10th inning.

Albert Lea had the bases loaded with one out and a chance to win the game, but the Tigers struck out on a called third strike and grounded out on a first pitch offering to end the threat.

Faribault’s comeback spoiled an otherwise tidy performance from Krystle Nelson. Nelson threw six shutout innings and allowed four hits, four walks and struck out one in her first start of the season.

Learning to win can be a difficult process and Albert Lea certainly experienced that against the Falcons.

“That’s what I keep preaching to them, ‘Believe in yourselves, because you can do it,'” Harms said. “We’ve got the talent, we’ve got the pitching, we’ve got the catching, we’ve got the hitters, but we’ve got to believe it.”

Faribault had a chance to win it in the eighth when Katie Kaderlik scored on a passed ball, but the Tigers rallied in the bottom half when Lana Howe scored on Westcott’s double to deep center field.

“They showed a lot of heart coming back and tying it up and forcing extra innings,” Harms said. “They could have laid down, but they didn’t.”

Albert Lea does not face Faribault again, and the game will only be made up if it affects the standings in the conference.

The Tigers travel to New Richland Saturday to face St. Clair in the New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva Tournament, a tournament they won last season.

Faribault 4, Albert Lea 3, Game 1

Faribault 000 022 0 — 4 8 0

Albert Lea 102 000 0 — 3 6 3

WP—Jenna Henry 7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 8 K

LP—Lana Howe 7 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 4 BB, 5 K

Faribault 3, Albert Lea 3, 10 innings, suspended due to darkness

Faribault 000 000 210 0 — 3 9 1

Albert Lea 100 001 010 0 — 3 9 2