Double header loss in Bottineau fails to crush Panthers’ spirit
Two tough losses against the Bottineau Crush didn’t crush the spirit of Rugby’s 14U Panthers girls’ softball team at Tommy Turtle Park in Bottineau June 30.
If anything, the challenge lifted the Rugby girls’ mood when the last inning wrapped up.
Tired and dusty from the hot afternoon games, the girls listened to a pep talk by their coach, Miriah Yoder after the doubleheader ended. After Yoder spoke, they gathered in a circle, chanting, “One, two, three, Panthers!” and let out a loud cheer that continued as they went into the dugout.
The Panthers played against the older, more experienced Bottineau team for just three innings in game one. Officials called the game when the Crush’s run total reached 32. However, the Panthers held their heads high with the knowledge the loss wasn’t a shutout, thanks to a single RBI by Rugby pitcher Tailyr Bush. In fact, the 0-3 Panthers hadn’t been shut out all season.
A series of RBIs by Bottineau’s Camryn Tweed, Kim Tabarez and Lauren Tegestad added to walks and fielding errors on the Panthers’ part to give the Crush eight points in the first inning. The Panthers set off their scoring drive with a base hit by Reese Gullickson, who later crossed home plate when Bush batted her in.
The Panthers fell even farther behind at the bottom of the second inning, when fly balls dropped from Rugby fielders’ gloves and throws missed their marks. A series of RBIs continued, and the Crush’s lead increased to 12-1. Bush, who pitched for Rugby, still delivered strikes across the plate.
Then, a line drive by batter Harliegh Parisien smacked into Bush’s hand.
Brooke Kleespie took over pitching duties as Bush walked to the dugout to get an ice bag.
Kleespie would finish both games for the Panthers.
The bottom of the second inning ended with Kleespie striking Taberez out, but not before the scoreboard read 32-1 in favor of Bottineau.
The Panthers saw their hopes to stay in the game fade in three quick outs.
The first inning of game two started the same way for the Panthers, who saw Brekkyn Thompson take first base on a walk before striking out three times.
Officials changed the game rules to limit run totals to five per inning, limiting the deficit to 5-0 at the end of the first inning. Addison Mach pitched in the second game for the Crush, replacing Tweed, who’d pitched in the first game of the double header.
By the top of the third inning, the Panthers trailed 10-0, but batters found new optimism after Abby Hager and Kleespie walked to first base. Both took advantage of a wild Bottineau pitch to advance to second and third base. A sacrifice pop fly by Livvy Johnson brought Hager home.
The Panther defense held Bottineau to just one run at the bottom of the third inning. After an RBI by Taberez, Rugby put their gloves to work, catching two fly balls and tagging Lydian Laframboise out at first. Another close call happened when a hit bounced off Kleespie, but she told Yoder she was okay.
The fourth inning began with walks by Sam Blessum and Tallie Dosch, who advanced one base each on errors.
Blessum slid home on another wild pitch, setting off a loud cheer from the Panthers dugout. More walks set up two RBIs on a single by Johnson. The run deficit decreased to 11-4.
The Crush came back to grow their lead by five more runs after a double by Carmen Lindekugel, an RBI by Josie Wintermute and a sacrifice RBI by Kenadie Hill. Neveah Juntunen doubled to bat Hallie Gullet in before the inning ended with a 16-4 lead for the Crush.
A series of wild pitches on Bottineau’s part put Panthers on base in the fifth inning. One pitch bounced off Blessum’s foot, so Yoder put Mauvlyn Kirchofner in as a pinch runner. Another pitch hit Katherine Arnold two batters later and soon the bases were loaded.
When Kleespie walked to first base, Marly Santjer crossed the plate for a fifth Panthers run.
Although game two ended with a 16-5 Panthers loss, the young Rugby players cheered for the plays they’d made.
“They got better in their second game,” Yoder smiled as her Panthers let out another cheer. “I told them I wish they’d had that energy the whole way through. It’s great and you can tell they’re having fun.”
“Even though the outcome of the first game wasn’t great, still having fun was important,” Yoder added. “We had our pitcher, Brooke come in when our pitcher, Tailyr got hurt and she threw strikes and that’s what you need as a pitcher. Just throwing strikes and letting your defense work – it was awesome.”
Yoder said she was happy to see how the Panthers adjusted from Tweed’s slower pitching to Mach’s faster pitches as well.
The Panthers would play their next game in Devils Lake July 6 before hosting Fessenden at the Rugby Softball Diamonds July 8.
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