Tigers softball wins with walk-off hit

Published 12:59 am Friday, May 14, 2010

Instead of finding ways to lose tight games the Albert Lea softball team has started to find ways to win the close ones.

After losing their first six one-run ballgames, the Tigers finally won their first one-run game with a 1-0, eight-inning victory over John Marshall Thursday at the Hammer Field Complex in Albert Lea.

Albert Lea, which snapped a nine-game losing streak with a doubleheader sweep of Owatonna Tuesday, got a two-hit shutout from senior Lana Howe and solid defense backing her up to reverse its fortunes in close ballgames.

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“Early in the season when we’re losing these we’re not focused the entire time for seven, eight innings and that’s why we weren’t winning,” said Tigers head coach Dan Harms. “We’re focused the whole game.”

The Tigers (4-13-1, 3-13-1 Big Nine) got the winning run across in the eighth inning when senior Kim Nelson, who was moved up from sixth to fifth in the lineup, laced a base hit to the outfield to score senior Kristine Kelly from second base. But the play of the game came when junior Amanda Westcott reached on a dropped third strike with two outs to keep the inning alive and allow Nelson to the plate.

“That’s why I had her (Nelson) up where she was at, because she’s a contact hitter,” Harms said. “She puts the ball in play more than some of the other ones down at the bottom of the lineup.”

In the top half of the inning the Rockets threatened when Howe gave up a lead-off walk to John Marshall’s No. 9-hitter Nicole Kraushaar. Kraushaar stole second base and broke for third after the ball dribbled past senior shortstop Lauren Klick, but Klick corralled the ball quickly and threw Kraushaar out at third in plenty of time.

Howe struck out three and walked three in eight innings and worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the third inning with a strikeout of the Rockets’ No. 3 hitter Lizzy Hazard, the same player who hit a game-winning homer against the Tigers on April 20 in Rochester.

The two hits Howe allowed came in the third inning and she allowed just five baserunners in the final five innings.

Through the first seven innings it looked like an exercise in offensive futility for both teams as they both struggled with runners in scoring position early and later failed to reach base. Albert Lea left seven runners on base and John Marshall left six stranded.

John Marshall was held hitless after the third inning and Albert Lea went hitless from the fourth inning until Nelson’s game-winner.

With the victory the Tigers tied last season’s mark of four victories and have started to find the formula to success.

“We’re on top instead of the bottom of these close ones,” Harms said. “We’re peaking at the right time.”

Albert Lea 1, John Marshall 0

John Marshall 000 000 00 — 0 2 1

Albert Lea 000 000 01 — 1 6 1

WP—Lana Howe 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K

LP—Chelsee Feuerhelm 8 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K