VIRGINIA — The Rock Ridge 16U softball team fell down early to Mountain Iron-Buhl Monday evening in Virginia, but the Thunder rallied back, scoring five in the final inning to outlast the Rangers, picking up the 8-6 Arrowhead Fast Pitch win.
16U head coach Jeff Teasck said his team has been coming together slowly over the last couple weeks, with 16U players from Virginia and Eveleth-Gilbert coming together along with some 14U players. Overall, improvements have been made quickly.
“There’s still some new players coming together,” Teasck said. “A lot of these girls played Rock Ridge softball in the sprint but some haven’t. You can tell this week has already been better than last week. We’re still making those connections and it’s coming along nicely.”
The Rangers got on the board first in the top of the first when leadoff hitter Aniyah Thomas singled to reach first. A pair of wild pitches to Natalie Bergman allowed Thomas to move all the way to third before Bergman took a walk to join her on the bases.
Bergman stole her way to second before Thunder pitcher Brynn Rozinka struckout Desi Milton. The first run came in to score when Elle Otto singled to shallow right field, scoring Thomas. Two more runs came in on consecutive at bats on wild pitches from Rozinka.
MI-B pitcher Alix Swanson saw the bases get loaded up in the bottom of the first, walking Mayme Scott and Alli Fink before hitting Ellie Teasck with no outs. Swanson and the Ranger defense kept a zero up for the Thunder, with the pitcher striking out Rozinka before the Rangers grabbed the second out on a force out at home and made the routine play from short to first for the final out.
Rozinka found her groove in the second and third, facing one above the minimum during the stretch and recording two strikeouts. In the bottom of the third, the Rangers got in trouble again when Swanson loaded up the bases, hitting Lizzy Fults before walking Scott and Fink.
MI-B skipper Jesse White swapped out Swanson for Bergman in the circle, but two runs came in to score quickly on a passed ball and then a wild pitch. Rozinka then flew out to center for the RBI sacrifice, tying the game at three.
The Rangers took the lead back as quickly as they lost it, scoring one in the top of the fourth. Otto led things off with a single to right before her pinch runner Milton moved all the way to third with Sam Hoff at the plate. Hoff then took a walk to put runners on the corners.
Swanson at the plate, Hoff made her way to second before Rozinka got two to fly out for a pair of outs. A passed ball thrown to Jersey Yernatich allowed Milton to come home, putting MI-B back on top 4-3.
Mountain Iron-Buhl tacked on another two in the top of the fifth. With one out, Audrey Simonson doubled to right to reach. She stole her way to third before Jordan Lommel was walked to put runners on the corners.
Rozinka struck out Thomas for the second out and nearly got out of the jam when Bergman popped up into right field. The ball was dropped, however, allowing two MI-B runs to score, 6-3 Rangers.
Keeping with the 90-minute time limit for Arrowhead games, the bottom of the fifth would be the final inning of the game regardless of the score.
The Thunder got things going when Lauren Harju reached on a leadoff walk. With Fultz at the plate, Harju stole her way to second and then made it to third on a wild pitch before Fultz was walked.
Some throwing errors from the Rangers allowed the two runners to come and score while Scott took first base on a walk. It wasn’t long before she came home and score, stealing her way to second, moving to third on a passed ball and then coming home on a wild pitch to tie things up at six.
Fink was walked and she too quickly moved to third, stealing two bases before Bergman struck out Teasck. A walk to Rozinka put runners back on the corners before consecutive wild pitches brought the two final runners home. The 90-minute time limit was reached shortly after, ending the game in favor of the Thunder.
Uncharacteristic of his squad, White said after the game that it wasn’t the type of softball he wanted to see from his team.
“It was just a lack of effort tonight,” White said. “Too many errors, too many passed balls, too many walks, too many hit batters. The team was not engaged for whatever reason.
“We just have to work harder and try to get better. We played way better last week and just came out flat this week so we’ll work on that the rest of the summer.”
Talking with his team throughout all five innings of Monday’s game, Jeff Teasck said after the game that the main focus on playing Arrowhead summer ball was to simply get better.
“We’re playing all 16U girls and a few 14U are with us too tonight and I think we show our age sometimes. We always talk about the next play being the most important play. We should still kind of be in a groove from the spring, but I think a lot of girls are hitting their stride right now and the different mix of girls lets us go out and coach more.”
On Rozinka getting the win in the circle, Teasck said she showed moments of brightness and improved as the game went on.
“Overall she threw well. Sometimes she’s a bit high but when she’s in a groove, she’s tough to hit. She got hot as things went on and she’s a bulldog and a competitor. She doesn’t quit and she hates to lose. She grinded this one out and we got a W for her.”
With the Thunder fielding full 16U and 18U teams this year, Teasck says it’s a great sign that both teams will be able to get in a full slate of summer games.
“We’re definitely fortunate enough to have enough girls to make both teams work and get both teams a lot of games. We’re all looking to get better as we get ready to come together next spring as Rock Ridge. It should be a lot of fun.”
Rock Ridge 16U will be at Mesabi East on Monday. Mountain Iron-Buhl will host International Falls that same evening.