By Brian Besch
Free passes, whether by base on balls or hit batter, prevented Onalaska softball from claiming victory Tuesday, dropping a 14-13 offensive feast in the final inning.
New Onalaska coach Steve Gorden said his staff counted 16 Crockett girls that were either walked or hit by a pitch Tuesday. The Lady Bulldog offense didn’t have to assist much to get runs across.
“We are trying to develop pitching from girls that have played other positions,” Gorden said. “We have outfielders playing the infield, so it is tough right now.”
Down 3-0 in the second inning, the Onalaska offense got on the board when Maegan Reyes tripled and Mary Joy Cariaga reached on error, allowing the run to cross.
After surrendering two more runs, the Lady Cats went back to work, as Kayla Houser walked and stole two bags. Charlie McNeely walked and stole second and Kayleigh Wilson grounded into a fielder’s choice to bring in Houser. A passed ball plated McNeely, and the score was 5-3 Crockett after three frames.
In the bottom of the fourth, A.J. Pinkert hit an inside-the-park homer to cut into the Lady Bulldog lead at 8-4.
The bottom of the fifth, now down 9-4, saw the Lady Cats again put pressure on the visitors. Wilson walked and Shelby Key was safe at first with an infield single. Reyes, batting in the nine hole, slapped a two-RBI single into right field. She then stole second and was pushed to third on a sacrifice bunt from Cariaga. A wild pitch got Reyes home for a 9-7 game.
Crockett added three in the top half, but that did not deter the Onalaska offense. Houser walked and stole two bases, then a passed ball scored her. Wilson walked and stole second base, then advanced to third on a throwing error. Key walked and Reyes was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Cariaga represented the tying run at the plate, and reached on an infield single. Kalli Saucier drove in two with a single of her own, making it a one-run game.
Pinkert then hammered a ball into right field. Two runners scored to take the lead, and Pinkert was thrown out at home, trying for her second inside-the-park home run.
The small advantage was short-lived, as free passes again haunted Onalaska. Crockett regained the lead by one in the top of the seventh at 14-13.
The Lady Cats threatened in their half of the seventh with runners on second and third and no one out. However, a line drive to shortstop was snagged and the runner at third was doubled up. A strikeout ended the contest with a runner in scoring position.
A string of unfortunate events have led to the Onalaska pitching woes.
“Our starting pitcher from last year quit just as the season started, and then our J.V. pitcher quit because she had ag projects,” Gorden said. “Our catcher (Kaitlyn Wilson), who Sam Houston State is interested in, had to be our pitcher. She started pitching and we had a catcher that is trying to fill in. Then, (Wilson) got into a car accident, not this last Sunday, but the Sunday before on the way to softball practice. She almost died. The engine of the car was sitting outside of the front of the car, and everything was just torn up.”
The coach said Wilson is doing much better now and that the seatbelt saved her life. He said her vehicle went airborne, then hit an embankment.
“It has been tough. We started out with a lot of promise. The rest of the district is really tough. We needed this one tonight and we need the one Friday to have a chance, according to who we’re playing and what their records are. You never know, you have to play the game. It is going to be tough for Onalaska.”
The softball team travels to Crockett Friday, then returns home for a game with Tarkington Tuesday.