Packers relieve pressure, slide past Century

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 19, 2002

The Austin softball team came in contact with almost every situation both the offense and defense practice for, and the Packers were prepared and prolific.

Austin's education from its only loss so far this season -- a 1-0 defeat at Winona -- played a major role in the Packers' 4-0 win over Rochester Century in Thursday's Big Nine Conference match at Todd Park.

The Pack (3-1, 3-1 Big Nine) ran into the chance to score a baserunner from second on a single, but this time chose the wiser and waited for the clutch hit. Kylene Erstad, Amy Kelly and Keri Feller all came through in the third inning as Austin scored three of its four runs and lifted the pressure from Kelly's pitching shoulders.

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"I was nervous at the beginning because they just played a really close game with East, and they're supposed to be the best in the conference," Kelly said. "I just got stronger as the game went on."

Kelly surrendered two hits and no walks against eight strikeouts, five of which came in Century's second time through the order. The junior hurler was also one of four Packer batters with two hits, and one of three with an RBI.

Senior Stacy Draayer started the season as a left-handed slap hitter, but was given the option to turn back around to her original right-handed form from Austin head coach Todd Waterbury. He was pleased with the results.

"I asked her," Waterbury said. "Hitting is such a mental thing. It's nice to be confident, and she really showed she could do it."

Draayer, batting out of the ninth spot, went 2-2 with two singles, a walk, and two runs scored -- including the game-winner after leading off the third with a hit. After leadoff hitter Chelsea McColley flied out, Draayer moved to second on a wild pitch and pushed up to third after Betsy Hingeveld's first of two hits.

The opportunity to send Draayer home from second on a single arose, and the Packers passed it up.

"We worked a lot on baserunning in practice this week," Kelly said. "We knew what to do in every situation."

After falling behind 1-2, Erstad dropped down a textbook suicide squeeze bunt to score Draayer -- who slid in safely ahead of the throw home -- as the eventual game-winning run.

"We wanted to get out of the gates, we talked about trying to open each inning the same way," Coach Waterbury said. "I was happy to see the squeeze play work. It was executed as well as we could hope for. It was a great bunt.

"Once we got the run, it just seemed to take a load off our shoulders."

Kelly followed with an RBI single to plate Hingeveld, but Erstad got the stop sign on her way around third. Two hitters later, Feller ripped a 1-2 pitch through the middle for the RBI.

Three runs was more than enough for Kelly, who struck out Century's No. 2 and 3 hitters to start the fourth.

"This is the team that we should see all the time, a team that works on all cylinders virtually all the time," Coach Waterbury added. "We stayed aggressive and worked hard the whole game."

The Packers work their way to Owatonna today, taking on the Huskies for a 4:30 p.m. game rescheduled from earlier this season.

Call Ross Thede at 434-2234 or e-mail him at