Pack slides safely into semifinals

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 23, 2002

Pitching a complete game is nothing new in high school softball, but playing the complete game is a completely different story.

The Austin High softball squad showed off its skills in every aspect of the game at the right time, opening Section 1AAA play with a 5-0 rout of Rosemount Wednesday night at the Todd Park Softball Complex in Austin.

The Packers (17-3) -- seeded second in the Section -- pounded out 11 hits, ran the bases aggressively, got near-perfect pitching and played almost flawless defense in their first postseason game.

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"We were just ready to play from the beginning," said Austin first baseman Nikki Turvey. "We weren't really nervous, just energized."

Austin faces sixth-seeded Big Nine Conference rival Rochester Mayo in Friday's semifinal round at 8 p.m. at Todd Park North. The Packers swept the Spartans with a pair of 2-0 wins during regular-season play.

"If we can stay focused like we did today, we've got a pretty good shot," Packer outfielder Steph Sundberg said. "It felt good. We know what we can accomplish."

The Packers came out ready against the hardest throwing pitching they've seen this season. Rosemount's Hanna Hansen didn't fool leadoff hitter Kylene Erstad, who hammered a line-drive down the left-field line that was snared by Sara Strese.

"When we practiced today everybody was hitting awesome," Turvey said. "Our team hits better off faster and accurate pitchers."

Even though Erstad didn't reach base, Austin coach Todd Waterbury knew her at-bat was a telling one.

"Kylene sets the tone, everyone seems to follow suit," he said. "We did all the fundamental things we had to do.

"This was the best game we've played all year. We put it all together."

Packer pitcher Amy Kelly struck out seven, walked none, allowed one hit and faced only one more than the minimum in the complete-game victory. Rosemount's Kjersten Sakala led off the third with a bloop single to center, but her hit was quickly erased on Gretchen Olson's grounder to the right side. Austin second baseman Chelsea McColley made the scoop, applied the tag on Sakala, and tossed to Turvey at first.

The Irish only reached base once more on a dropped fly ball in the fifth. Austin's infield was 11-for-11 on opportunities, while Sundberg saved possible extra bases with a shoestring catch in the second.

"We just played as solid as we know how," Sundberg said. "It was a great game. The energy was there, the plays were there, the bats were there … everything came together."

Sundberg scored what proved to be the game-winning run by forcing a throwing error in the bottom of the third. She reached with a leadoff single and took second on Caitlin Jurgenson's sacrifice bunt, but she didn't stop there. With nobody covering third, Sundberg instinctively sped towards the base and slid safely as the throw from first bounded into left field.

Austin added insurance runs in the fourth and fifth. Kelly led off the fourth with a single up the mniddle, took second on Keri Feller's sacrifice, and scored on Turvey's hit back up the box.

The Pack tallied three more in the fifth, getting run-scoring singles from McColley and Kelly.

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