ROCHELLE — The winning run was only one base away when the Rochelle varsity softball team was attempting to complete an excellent rally against unbeaten Stillman Valley on Friday.
Three consecutive at-bats led to runs for the Lady Hubs, who trailed 4-0 entering the bottom of the seventh inning. Senior Emilee Dueringer reached on an error before junior Abby Reish singled to put two runners on with no outs.
After Rochelle head coach Lindsay Suess inserted juniors Ally Reish and Maggie Williams as pinch runners for Dueringer and Abby Reish, junior Hannah Luxton delivered Rochelle’s first big hit of the day, an RBI single to right field that made it 4-1 in favor of the Cardinals. Two batters later, senior Becca Bunger doubled to right field, plating Williams and making the score 4-2.
An RBI groundout by senior Macy Luxton scored Hannah Luxton and allowed Bunger to reach third base, setting up sophomore Bella Lodico to potentially tie the game with two outs. Lodico smoked the first pitch of her at-bat, lining the ball to third base, but a snow-cone catch quickly dashed Rochelle’s hopes of victory. The Lady Hubs fell 4-3 to drop to 0-6 overall.
“I thought we did a great job of hitting the ball today,” Suess said. “We hit the ball very hard and they played outstanding defense. Stillman Valley’s third baseman and shortshop made some great plays today. Sooner or later, those line drives are going to fall for us.”
Stillman Valley took an early lead over Rochelle, capitalizing on two errors by the Lady Hubs to score one run and go ahead 1-0. The Lady Hubs had a tough time finding holes in the Cardinal defense, totaling just three hits over the first six innings courtesy of singles from Macy Luxton (second inning), Abby Reish (third inning) and Hannah Luxton (fifth inning).
Lodico was sharp on the mound, however, holding the Stillman Valley offense scoreless over the second, third and fourth innings. After one walk and one stolen base, another error by the Lady Hubs allowed the Cardinals to add one run and take a 2-0 lead.
“I thought Bella did great on the mound and she continues to improve daily,” Suess said. “She did a good job of keeping their batters off balance.”
Rochelle had a chance to score in the bottom of the sixth inning, when Bunger reached on a hit-by-pitch and Lodico reached on an error. But a pair of soft line drives to short ended the Rochelle scoring threat. One walk and two errors by the Rochelle defense in the top of the seventh inning led to two runs by the Cardinals, who entered the bottom frame up 4-0.
“We know our girls can make those plays and we’re going to make sure we clean those up,” Suess said.