Packers simply will not quit
Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 24, 2003
There is no way to describe the relentlessness that lives in the dugout of the eighth-ranked Austin softball team. You have to see it to believe it, and Rosemount witnessed it firsthand on Friday night.
The top-seeded Packers scored twice in the bottom of the eighth inning to overcome fourth-seeded Rosemount, 2-1, Friday at Todd Park.
"Somehow some way these girls find a way," said AHS coach Todd Waterbury. "There's something special about them.
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"I can't think of too many more exciting games than this one."
All three runs were scored in the first extra inning and Austin advanced into the finals of the championship bracket against No. 2 seed Farmington. After Friday's games, only six teams remain in the Section 1AAA tournament, and Austin was ecstatic to be one of them.
"That was a really tough team, I was so nervous," said AHS senior Steph Eslinger, who delivered the game-winning RBI with two outs.
Rosemount scored the game's first run in the top of the eighth, getting an RBI-single from pitcher Brittany Nelson. A routine groundout turned into a double play to eliminate the Irish's increrasing threat to end the inning, and like it has so many times before, Austin responded.
No. 9 hitter Steph Sundberg punched a single to right field to start the Packers' comeback rally. Leadoff batter Kylene Erstad was unable to get the sacrifice bunt down but bailed herself out with a grounder to third that bounced off the fielder's glove and into left field.
That brought up Austin's best bunter in Betsy Hingeveld. Her sacrifice attempt was fielded by the first baseman who instinctively tried to beat Erstad to third. The throw sailed wide and Sundberg alertly galloped toward home but was thrown out by the left fielder, who was backing up the play.
"I thought she had it but the call didn't go our way, but we still had the situation we were looking for," Waterbury said.
Erstad and Hingeveld moved up behind the play, leaving two runners in scoring position for Austin's pitcher, Amy Kelly.
And just as Nelson delivered for Rosemount, Kelly was up to the task for her Packers. Kelly chopped a grounder up the middle past the pulled-in infield, scoring Erstad easily. Kelly tried to enduce a throw on her way to second, but Nelson held on with Hingeveld lurking off third.
The true grit of Nelson, who had allowed just three hits during seven regulation innings, showed through with her strikeout of Austin's best hitter -- Keri Feller. Eslinger, the on-deck hitter, had been preparing for Rosemount to walk Feller to load the bases and keep the force-out in order.
"(Coach Waterbury) told me 'It's going to come down to you,'" Eslinger said. "He always says it on the big plays and puts the pressure on me."
Instead of walking Feller, Nelson took care of it herself to add to the tension.
Now with two outs, both teams prepared for the play that might define their entire season.
Eslinger, hitless in her team's final five regular season games, delivered in the clutch. She ripped an outside pitch to the gap in right-center field, where outfielders Jamie Schaefer and Lyssa Caradori collided trying to make the game-saving catch. The ball glanced off Schaefer's glove, but the left-handed center fielder could not make the backhanded grab with her teammate coming on full speed.
The two laid motionless as the ball rolled toward the fence, allowing Hingeveld to come plateward as the game-winning run.
"I didn't even see (the ball)," Eslinger said. "I just saw the crash."
Both players would be carted off the field on stretchers, with Schaefer suffering a head injury and Cararodi sustaining a leg or hip injury.
Caradori had three of Rosemount's seven hits off Kelly, two for extra bases. Caradori led off the eighth with a double and later scored on Nelson's blooper to right.
Seven different players had hits for Austin, including Teresa White's two-out double in the second.
Half of the Packers' six hits came in the eighth inning against Nelson, who struck out 10 in the game.
"I just think we've had so many of these games that it really pays off in section time," Kelly said. "We knew we still had it in us. It doesn't matter who's up, we just have so much confidence in anybody."
Rosemount 1Austin 2
Miller dh4000Erstad 3b4100
Feiock c0000Hingeveld lf3110
Schmitt ss4000Kelly p4011
Cffy-Reis 3b4020Feller c4000
Wilson pr0000Eslinger ss4011
Olson lf4010White dh3010
Strese 1b2000Turvey 1b3000
Schaefer cf2000Rider rf3010
Maeck ph1000Sundberg cf3010
Team LOB--Rosemount 8, Austin 7. 2B--Caradori, White. 3B--Caradori. S--Strese, Hingeveld. SB--Goettsch, Rider.
Nelson L7 2/3620110
WP--Kelly 2, Nelson.