Packers get revenge in first round
Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 22, 2003
The eighth-ranked Austin High School softball team started its defense of the Section 1AAA title by avenging one of only two regular-season losses, topping Big Nine Conference rival Winona 5-1 Wednesday night at Todd Park.
The Packers (19-2), seeded atop the 16-team field, scored three runs in the top of the first inning to give AHS pitcher Amy Kelly all she would need. Kelly struck out seven, walked three and scattered five hits in the seven-inning win.
"After that first inning I settled down," Kelly said. "We knew that if we could hit that girl our defense would make the plays.
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"We needed some revenge from softball and basketball."
Winona (10-12) ended Austin's postseason basketball run in the Section finals last winter, and some members of the Packer softball team kept that memory close as Winona topped Hastings 3-0 in Wednesday's opening round.
The Winhawks answered Austin's early outbreak with their lone run in the bottom of the first, but they were unable to hold the Packers to just three.
"They got some big hits," said Winona coach Bob Heise. "Timely hitting was the key to the whole thing."
Austin's three-run rally in the first came with two outs. Kelly and Keri Feller chopped singles through the infield, and Steph Eslinger broke a five-game hitting slump with a two-run double down the right-field line.
"We were all excited to play (Winona) again," Eslinger said. "Beating them gives us that little edge, they've always kind of been rivals.
"We're always good with two (outs). I didn't want to end the run so I finally got a hit."
It didn't end with Eslinger, either, as designated hitter Teresa White slugged a double over the right-fielder's head. Austin made an adjustment at the plate to take away the outside corner from Winona starter Amanda Braatz, who worked away from Packer batters in earlier meetings. Braatz made it just two innings after pitching all seven against Hastings.
"We tried to change our approach in practice and it seemed to work pretty well," said AHS coach Todd Waterbury. "One of our goals was to score right away. Once we get a few runs early we settle in a bit.
"It's who can muster up some runs and get the hits when you need."
Steph Sundberg doubled with one out in the second and made an aggressive move to score on a wild pitch that didn't bounce far from home play.
Eslinger got her third RBI with a bases-loaded grounder that was misplayed in the fifth, giving Austin its 5-1 lead.
The Packer defense committed one inconsequential error in the sixth as Winona attempted to mount its own two-out rally. Sundberg made a spectacular running catch racing into right-center field to end the game.
"We made nice plays to end the inning and big plays to spark the offense on the other end," Waterbury said. "If we continue to play that way, positive things are going to continue to happen for us."
The Packers advance into the championship quarterfinals where they meet No. 4 seed Rosemount. The Irish routed Rochester Century 10-0 in six innings in the first round and Red Wing 10-1 in the second round. No. 2 Farmington escaped with a 1-0, 13-inning victory over Owatonna to move on, where third-seeded Lakeville awaits.
"We're not too worried about what Rosemount has done with other teams," Waterbury said. "We'll do the best we can to prepare our girls to hit the ball and get some runs."
The Packers play again Friday night at 8 p.m. at Todd Park's North Complex.
Winona 1Austin 5
Rodgers p4010Erstad 3b4010
Wing 3b3110Hingeveld lf4110
Cichosz 1b3000Kelly p4010
Infield cf3020Feller c4130
Degnan c3000Eslinger ss4113
Rader dh2000White dh3011
Brown lf0000Rohne 2b3010
Glenna ph1000Turvey 1b2000
Team LOB--Austin 6, Winona 6. 2B-- Eslinger, White, Sundberg, Rohne.
WP--Braatz 2. Picked off--Huntley (by Feller).