BURLINGTON – Burlington Central softball coach Wade Maisto knew for his team to pull out the win against Marengo amid windy conditions Thursday, the Rockets needed to limit mistakes and produce timely hitting.
Ultimately, the lack of both led to the Rockets’ downfall in a 3-1 loss to Marengo, which gave the Indians the Big Northern Conference East Division title outright. All three runs Marengo (18-9, 10-0 BNC East) scored were unearned.
“When I saw the wind, I knew it wasn’t going to be a game where there were going to be doubles, triples and home runs,” Maisto said. “Both teams have kids who can hit the ball over the fence, but not with this wind. I knew it was going to come down to doing the little things right.”
Burlington (13-7, 8-2) took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning on freshman Kelly Wiater’s two-out RBI double. Rockets starting pitcher Emily Kisch (6-3) did a good job limiting the Indians’ opportunities, keeping them scoreless through five innings.
Marengo finally broke through in the sixth. Jessica Turner led off with a walk and Abby Kissack attempted a sacrifice bunt. Kissack’s laid one down the third base line, but a throwing error allowed her to reach and gave Marengo two runners on with nobody out.
Kisch got the next batter to pop out but a hit batter loaded the bases. With senior catcher Taylor Carlson at the plate, she delivered with an RBI single to tie the game at 1. Marengo tried to score another run on the hit, however, Burlington threw out Kissack at home on the play for the second out of the sixth.
The Rockets had an opportunity to cut into Marengo’s lead in the bottom of the sixth, but Indians right fielder Veronica Ruelius made the defensive play of the game. With one out in the inning, Rebecca Gerke walked and Tori Harvey doubled to put two runners in scoring position.
Kassidy Gaylord hit a fly ball to right field, which Ruelius caught. Maisto had Gerke tag up and go home on the play, and Ruelius delivered a perfect throw to Carlson behind the plate to nab Gerke and end the inning with Marengo maintaining its two-run lead.
“On a normal day I wouldn’t send [Gerke] because it wasn’t a deep enough ball,” Maisto said. “I was hoping the wind would take the throw or bounce it in and we could take a run. I didn’t think it was a day you were going to get three hits in a row. I took kind of stupid risk there and we got burned on it. But I’m not going to second guess myself.”