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Fast-pitch softball provides learning opportunity for 13U girls

By Staff | Jun 26, 2020

Sue Sitter/PCT Rugby 13U pitcher Brooklyn Hager (left) winds up another fast pitch at Tommy Turtle Park in Bottineau

Fast pitch softball is new to Rugby’s 13U girls’ softball players, but Coach Miriah Yoder is the perfect person to teach them the game.

Yoder spends most of the year teaching at Ely Elementary School. “I played softball in high school for Devils Lake and played college softball at the University of Jamestown,” she told the Tribune.

Her assistant, Maisie Gault, said she played softball for Rugby High School. “I just signed on with the University of Jamestown today,” she said last Wednesday evening with a smile. “But I’m going there for track and field, not softball.”

The Rugby 13U girls traveled to Bottineau’s Tommy Turtle softball diamond for a high scoring double-header against the 4-4 Crush. The Rugby girls suffered 16-29 and 19-25 losses in Bottineau.

Yoder said the team had previously only played together with younger players. “For our older girls, this is their first just 13U game. We’ve had two close games, but we haven’t come away with a win yet. So, we’re working towards improving and getting that first win.”

Yoder said the Rugby girls do not “have an official team name.”

The Rugby girls kept their focus on finding the right pitches and making the most of walks to first base. After a little hesitation, they learned to make the most of opportunities to steal bases on Bottineau errors. Other errors gave them opportunities to steal home base, but some runners still stopped in front of Bottineau catcher Kaia Hennings.

An early Bottineau lead seemed to stymie Rugby players in the first game. Rugby pitchers Brooklyn Hager and Brooke Kleespie fine tuned their placement in the strike zone, but Bottineau held a 19-4 lead in the first three innings of game one. A mid-game comeback boosted Rugby’s score by 12 and Bottineau’s by 10 for the 16-29 first game loss. Rugby huddled in the dugout for instruction by Yoder between games.

Rugby used the lessons taught in the game to lead by two after walks loaded the bases. After Alli Blessum walked across home plate for the first Rugby score, Kleespie attempted to steal home only to be tagged out. Hager was more successful, stepping over the plate as the Crush catcher scrambled after a wild pitch.

Bottineau answered with three runs on errors for a 2-3 Rugby deficit before an Adison Dosch steal and Hager RBI put Rugby in the lead again 4-3 in the second inning.

Bottineau battled back, tying the score and climbing ahead with 12 more runs for 16-4 Crush lead by the top of the third inning. With more walks and errors resulting in loaded bases and runs for Rugby, the score narrowed to a 7-16 Bottineau lead.

A double and infield home run for Bottineau kicked off a long scoring drive for the Crush. Bottineau’s lead stretched to 25-7 before a fifth inning Rugby comeback with runs on errors scored by Livvy Johnson, Blessum, and Maci Brandt. RBIs by Sophie Brandt and Reese Gullickson followed.

The Rugby scoring drive narrowed the Bottineau lead again, resulting in a 16-25 deficit. Bottineau added three more runs for a 19-25 final total.

As the sun set, both teams shook hands and returned to their dugouts. “Wear sweatpants and heavy clothes to our next practice,” Yoder told the team. “We’re going to practice sliding on bases.”

Yoder said the team was new to fast pitch softball. “Last year was really their first year,” she said of the team. “Most of our games this year are fast pitch, so there’s still a lot of learning. We have only three 13 year olds, and the rest just turned 12, so we have a younger team that hasn’t had a lot of exposure to fast pitch.”

“But, they’re learning,” Yoder added, “and that’s what we want, for them to come away with something they learned that they can use in their next game.”

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