HIBBING — For four innings, the runs were hard to come by.
That’s because Maddy Walsh and Tayler Wakwo were hooked up in quite a pitchers’ duel in their U16 softball contest.
Walsh, who plays for Proctor during the school year and is a member of the Range Sports Stars, hadn’t given up a hit in four innings, striking out eight. Wakwo, who is from Bemidji, had allowed three hits, striking out three.
In the fifth inning all of that changed as both teams finally broke on the scoreboard, and fortunately for the Range Sports Stars, they were able to do the most damage en route to a 5-2 victory over the Blaze at Pete Filippi Field Thursday.
In game two, the Range Sports Stars came a way with an 8-7 victory to sweep the doubleheader.
As for the first game, Sports Stars co-coach Todd Scaia was happy with the way it played out.
“The game went well,” said Scaia. “It took us a little bit to get our bats going, but once they got going, that took over. Maddy pitched a great game. We were down by two at one point. Monroe (Rewertz) hit the ball well.
“Bella (Scaia) got a timely hit to get a run on the board.”
Walsh was unhittable through the first four innings, while Wakwo gave up a Miranda Gernander in the third, and base hits to Aune Boben and Walsh in the fourth.
“Those were the quickest four innings I’ve had in a long time,” Scaia said. “It was a pitchers’ duel. Maddy was throwing hard, and their young pitcher was throwing well, too. Keeping us off the board for four innings is not normal.”
The Blaze finally got to Walsh in the fifth when Gracie Fischer walked. She stole second and scored on an Elizabeth Oster single. With two out, Maddie Bassett was hit by a pitch. That was followed by an RBI double off the bat of Alana Reid.
It didn’t take long for the Sports Stars to get the game tied and take the lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, Monroe Rewertz doubled, then Bella Scaia’s hard-hit ball was misplayed for a two-base error, allowing Rewertz to score to make it 2-1.
Emma Kivela singled Scaia to third, then Gernander doubled home two runs to give the Sports Stars a 3-2 lead.
“I was happy with the way the girls responded, especially being down by two,” Scaia said. “With the way Maddy was pitching, I wasn’t expecting that, but I was happy how they responded.
“They showed that they can come back when they’re down.”
Walsh stranded Bemidji runners on second and third in the sixth, then her team gave her a little cushion with two runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Megan Bussey walked with two out as did Rewertz. Scaia’s ground ball to short was thrown over the first baseman, allowing both runners to score, making it 5-2.
“Anytime you add insurance runs they’re big for your pitcher,” Scaia said. “That frees everybody up to play looser, to make the plays and throws we need to make.”
Emma Stanoch reached on an error to start the Blaze’s seventh, but Walsh struck out the next three hitters to end the game.
“Maddy is an accomplished pitcher,” Scaia said. “Her and Bella work well together. She knew exactly what she needed to do to close out the game.”
Walsh finished with a three-hitter, striking out 14, walking two and hitting a batter.
Wakow tossed a six-hitter, striking out four, walking one and hitting two batters.
Gernander had two hits to pace the Range Sports Stars, with two RBI.
In the second game, Walsh hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the fourth as the Range Sports Stars won 8-7.
The Sports Stars scored four runs in the first inning.
Rewertz and LIndsey Tulla both singled with one out. With two out, Boben reached on an error to plate one run, then Bussey doubled home a run. Scaia reached on error to plate the other two runs.
The Sports Stars added two more runs in the second, all with two out.
Lindsey Racine singled, then Rewertz singled. Tulla reached on an error to drive home a run, then Walsh reached on an error to plate the second run.
In the third, Bussey doubled and Scaia walked. Bussey scored on a two-out single by Gernander.
That set the stage for the fourth inning when Racine and Rewertz hit back-to-back singles, and Tulla walked to load the bases. Walsh followed with her single to make a winner out of Tulla, who started on the pitching rubber for the Sports Stars.
Rewertz finished with three hits, and getting two hits apiece were Racine and Bussey.