Dogged determination helps Port softball team turn the tables for 11-10 victory over CG-Belgium
The famous late college basketball coach Jim Valvano would have been proud of the Port Washington High School softball team on Monday.
The host Pirates fell behind against Cedar Grove-Belgium, 5-0, after two and a half innings and looked cooked. Port had no hits while the Rockets were knocking the ball all over the diamond, rallying for runs in each of the first three frames.
But by the end of the contest, Port came away a 11-10 victory in nonconference play.
Valvano’s catch phrase he coined before dying of cancer was “Don’t ever give up.” It’s what Pirates coach Bob Snook teaches his team.
“Not giving up is one of the biggest things I try to instill in them. Even if you’re down by 10 runs, it’s a long game,” he said.
The tide slowly turned for Port in the bottom of the third. The Pirates tied the game before the Rockets bounced back with three runs in the fourth, taking an 8-5 lead.
Down 10-7 in the bottom of the sixth, the Pirates loaded the bases with two outs for Karley Lehtikangas. The senior grounded to short, but Megan Gonwa’s throw got by the first baseman. One run scored.
Erin Jozwowski tried to score from second base, and the throw home got by the catcher Morgan Green. That gave Morgan Esselman the opportunity to score from first, and she came in untouched.
After the wild play, the scoreboard read, 10-10.
Sarah Volesky then grounded to third, and the ball eluded Allie DeRuyter, allowing Lehtikangas to score the go-ahead run with three outs to go.
The Rockets had a runner reach second base in the top of the seventh, but Port ace Kate Snook got two popouts to end the game.
Rockets coach Scott Soerens said he was pleased with his team’s offense.
“Ten runs against anybody is good,” he said.
The Rockets started out hot, with Anna Thiele singling to center and Lauren Holzberger walking. A DeRuyter sacrifice bunt moved the two into scoring position.
Green then shot a ball past third base for two RBI, and sophomore Maria Dries followed with a smash down the third-base line for an RBI double.
But that was all Port and junior pitcher Brianna Heinen would allow as the Rockets stranded the bases loaded in the first. Heinen got a strikeout looking to end the frame.
In the second, Holzberger doubled over the centerfielder’s head and later scored on a wild pitch.
In the third, Gonwa tripled to right field and later scored on a pickoff attempt at third.
Thiele, the Rockets’ ace, had been cruising, facing eight batters in the first two innings and whiffing three.
Thiele went the distance despite not getting help from her defense late in the game. She bounced back from taking a liner off the head two weeks ago and a ball off the shin last week.
“Anna looked good. It was good to see her legs and stuff were working again,” Soerens said.
Midway through the third, Snook made a switch to his ace, his daughter Kate, who stopped the bleeding.
Port got a spark in the bottom of the third.
Brianna Dallgas started by clocking a double off the centerfield fence. After a throwing error, Maggie Noll bunted for a single and RBI, and Jozwowski was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Esselman pounded a double past DeRuyter at third, scoring two runs. A third run came in on an errant throw to third.
It was 5-5 and a new game.
“When we got in that hole in the first inning, the girls got down pretty quick, and sometimes it’s tough to get them back up, so it took us a couple of inning,” coach Snook said.
The Rockets came back in the fourth. Holzberger tripled to the fence in right center and DeRuyter was hit by a pitch. The Rockets followed with three hits. Green singled off the centerfield fence, as DeRuyter waited to see if it would be caught.
Dries smashed a double down the left-field line that rolled to the fence, and Emily Poull beat out a grounder for an infield single.
With three runs in, Port prevented further damage on a bunt by Gonwa that rolled a few feet down the first-base line. Jozwowski quickly picked it up and tagged Dries trying to score.
Cedar Grove-Belgium was up, 8-5.
Port added two more in the fifth on hits by Esselman and Lehtikangas, pulling within 8-7.
The Rockets again answered, plating two runs in the top of the sixth.
Green singled up the middle, Dries hit a slow liner past third base and Poull again beat out a throw for an infield single and RBI. Olivia Piatek grounded into a fielder’s choice for another run.
That set up the Pirates’ wild comeback in the bottom of the sixth.
“They didn’t give up. A couple of times when they got down they kind of hung their heads a little bit, but they never gave up,” coach Snook said.
He said he remembers seeing 12-0 games last year that ended in a 16-15 comeback.
“You never give up in these games,” he said.
Both coaches were just happy to be playing outside on dry fields.
“I think we’re having fun just getting to play and getting used to everything again, actually being on real fields,” Soerens said.
“Tonight, you put up 10. We’re hitting the ball.”
Beyond the field conditions and offense, Soerens was able to get experience for several players in the nonconference contest.
“Fourteen people played in this one,” he said.
Snook said his team hasn’t practiced in a week due to spring break and hadn’t yet played on a dirt infield.
“Rusty. We didn’t play like I think we should have, but we came out with a win in the end and the girls learned a little something about heart and keeping their heads in the game,” he said, “so if we can teach them one thing each game and get a little better each time.”
This week, Cedar Grove-Belgium (1-4) was scheduled to host St. Mary Central on Tuesday and Oostburg on Thursday and play at Sheboygan Lutheran on Friday.
Port (3-0) was scheduled to host Milwaukee Lutheran on Tuesday and Whitefish Bay on Thursday and participate in a three-team tournament against Kewaskum and Random Lake on Saturday. On April 25, the Pirates play at Homestead.
Rockets go 1-2 in Big East
Cedar Grove-Belgium lost at Random Lake, 10-0, on April 13 after splitting a doubleheader against Manitowoc Lutheran two days earlier. The Rockets lost the first game, 4-2, and won the second, 12-5.
In the victory, Poull batted leadoff and went 2-for-4 with a double, walk and four runs scored. Green had two hits, and Dries scored two runs.
The Rockets scored four runs in the first inning and built a 7-1 lead through four.
In the loss to Lutheran, Poull batted ninth and scored both runs. She clocked a homer and had a single.
“Actually, we played well in both of those games. We hit the ball hard, just couldn’t get runs to come in,” Soerens said,
“We’ve actually been hitting the ball well last week, even against Random. We hit right at people.”
CEDAR GROVE-BELGIUM’S Allie DeRuyter took a throw at third base as Port Washington’s Morgan Esselman slid in during a nonconference game Monday in Port. At right, Pirate Brianna Heinen fired a pitch. Port trailed, 5-0 and 8-5, before coming back to win, 11-10.
Photos by Sam Arendt