April 22, 2004 at 2:21 p.m.
Chisago Lakes 0
The mechanics were there but there was still something missing. The talent was there, but there was still something missing. After losing to Big Lake in their first game of the season, the Chisago Lakes softball team stretched their losing streak to two last Tuesday in St. Michael, falling 1-0. They had a chance at winning but something was missing, namely, their offense. The Wildcats mustered just four hits and no runs, putting their two game run total at one.
It took the Knights one inning to do their damage. Scoreless in the bottom of the fifth, St. Michael mounted a two-out rally by stringing together a single, then a double, scoring their first and only run of the game. From there, ‘Cats starter Sarah Ploog was perfect, finishing the game with five strikeouts in six innings of work. However, despite the quality outing, Ploog fell to 0-2 on the season.
Meanwhile, even though they only struck out once in the entire game, the Wildcats were left licking their wounds at the plate, searching for answers.
“We just didn’t have a lot of opportunities, we didn’t get the bat on the ball,” said Steve Fisher, Chisago Lakes softball head coach. “Our first two games were almost identical, we never got anything going with our bats.”
Offensively, Morgan Baumgard, Katie Reed, Karina Swanberg, and Andrea Nelson accounted for the only Chisago hits, giving the ‘Cats 11 hits through their first two games. More importantly, two losses.
“I was concerned but it’s not like we got 10-runned,” remarked Fisher. We needed to beat St. Michael, but we just couldn’t string any hits together. Overall though, we played okay. The kids spirits were still decent.”
STMA 1, Chisago Lakes 0
Chisago Lakes 000 000 0 0
STMA 000 010 X 1
Baumgard, Reed, Swanberg, Nelson
LP: Ploog (0-2)
Menomonie (Wisc.) 3
Chisago Lakes 2
Whatever was missing in their first two games started to make an appearence last Thursday against Menomonie (Wisc.). Still, the Wildcats lost 3-2, falling to 0-3 on the season.
Once again the ‘Cats were plagued by a slow start. After Menomonie scored two runs in the top of the first, they stretched their lead to 3-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh.
The Wildcats last chance.
After leaving runners on base in the bottom of the sixth, Diane Reineccius began the seventh with a walk followed by an Ariel Novak single. With two runners on, junior Katie Reed smashed a double, scoring Reineccius from second for the ‘Cats first run of the game. However, Novak was thrown out at the plate trying to pull the Wildcats within one. The score remained 3-1.
Not done yet, Reed plated Chisago’s second run of the game on a Menomonie error, pulling the ‘Cats within one, 3-2. However, that was as close as they would get. Despite the late comeback, the Wildcats fell inches short, falling to 3-2.
“You have to take some chances,” commented Fisher, referring to Novak being thrown out at the plate. “We weren’t scoring runs so I have to take a chance at some point trying to get some runners in. We should’ve won that game, no question. It was within our reach, but at the same time, we started to turn the corner a little bit. We started to swing the bat and hit the ball a lot harder.”
In all, the Wildcats banged out nine hits, two came from Reed. On the mound, Sarah Ploog fell to 0-3 on the season despite striking out six and only walking one.
“The first three teams we’ve played have been as good as we’ve ever played to start the season,” remarked Fisher. “All three teams were really good, so even though we lost all three, we had our chances in two of those games. I think what we did against Menomonie showed that we were starting to turn the corner.”
Menomonie 3, Chisago Lakes 2
Menomonie 200 001 0 3
Chisago Lakes 000 000 2 2
Reed- 2 H, RBI
R. Nelson- H
LP: Ploog (0-3)
Chisago Lakes 4
Proctor 3 (8 innings)
Starting to turn the corner and just in time.
If Fisher thought their first three games were difficult, then their fourth match-up of the season against Proctor last Saturday looked impossible. After all, the Rails were returning all nine of their starters from last season and are considered one of the favorites to win section 7AA.
Good time to turn the corner indeed, even though it didn’t look like it early. Proctor wasted little time making their mark, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning off of Chisago Lakes starter Sarah Ploog.
However, unlike in their three previous games, the Wildcats answered back with a run of their own in the first. After a walk and two singles, Rachel Nelson lifted a deep sacrifice fly, scoring the ‘Cats first run of the game, trimming the deficit to 2-1.
Proctor kept the pressure on by adding another run in the top of the second, pushing their lead to two. It would not be enough.
Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the fourth, Chisago Lakes charged back to tie the game. After a lead-off double by Erin Cunningham, an Ariel Novak sacrifice fly followed by a Katie Reed RBI double brought in two more, pulling the Wildcats even 3-3.
“You just have to give a lot of credit to the kids for continuing to battle. When we were down 2-0, I figured the game was over, but they didn’t give up,” said Fisher. “We finally got some clutch hits, our defense was solid, and Sarah kept us in the game with her pitching.”
Kept them in the game enough to force extra innings after the ‘Cats missed a golden opportunity to win the game in the bottom of the seventh.
In the bottom of the eighth, they weren’t about to make the same mistake. Tied 3-3, Katie Young started things off with a single followed by two walks. After the Rails forced out one runner home to keep the game alive, Chisago Lakes freshman Morgan Baumgard stepped into the batters box, looking to give the ‘Cats the win.
Looking is the operative word. After fouling several pitches off, Baumgard took ball four, scoring the winning run from third. The 4-3 victory was the Wildcats first win of the year. What a time to turn the corner.
“Morgan really battled. She had three of four foul balls before she took the walk. Sarah again pitched well, she kept us going, and our big guns came through and got some big hits for us,” mentioned Fisher. “That was a big win for us, not only because it was our first, but because it came against a very good team, maybe the best in the north (section 7AA). Even to take them into extra innings was an accomplishment. I think the team atmosphere started to change, even going back to the Menomonie game. They started to come around.”
Ploog picked up her first win of the season going eight innings while striking out five and walking two. As a team, Chisago finished the game with seven hits. Nobody had more than one.
Chisago Lakes 4, Proctor 3 (8 inn)
Proctor 210 000 00 3
Chisago Lakes 100 200 01 4
Reed- H, RBI, 2 BB
Baumgard- H, RBI, BB
WP: Ploog (1-3)
Chisago Lakes 6
Their Saturday wasn’t done and neither was their turnaround. After disposing of Proctor in eight innings just hours before, the Wildcats left little to the imagination in game two versus Virginia, defeating them 6-1. The win pulled the ‘Cats record to 2-3 on the year.
Despite falling behind early for the fifth time in five games, Chisago Lakes took control of the game in the bottom of the third. Trailing 1-0, the Wildcats struck for three runs, then added three more in the fourth and fifth.
In the third, Baumgard tied the game 1-1 by singling in Reed for the ‘Cats first run of the game. Rachel Nelson then turned the tie into a lead with a two-run single moments later, putting Chisago in front 3-1.
Not that they needed any more offense, three straight singles loaded the bases in the fourth before Reed knocked two more runners in with a single of her own, stretching the lead to 5-1.
“The middle innings were big,” explained Fisher. “Some of the older kids decided to start scoring some runs. They were all getting some hits. Erin Cunningham had a couple doubles, Rachel had a few RBI’s. It was nice to see us carry the momentum from the Proctor game over.”
In the fifth, Ariel Novak completed the scoring by singling in Erin Cunningham after Cunningham reached on a double, scoring the sixth and final run.
While Chisago’s 12 hits were one story, the performance of sophomore Whitney Slagerman was the other. Making her first ever varsity start on the mound, Slagerman picked up her first win, allowing just four hits and striking out eight.
“She did a heck of a job. I knew she could throw the ball, it was just a matter of not having varsity experience,” replied Fisher. “I wasn’t sure how she’d react, but she did great. She kept the hitters off balance a little bit and showed great poise.”
The same can be said about the team as a whole. Winless and concerned heading into last Saturday, the Wildcats not only finished the day with two wins, but more importantly, they came out of the day with a lot more answers...and confidence.
“That was a huge way to end the Saturday. Proctor was a huge win. We can use that to increase some of our momentum,” said Fisher. “I just think the kids are getting to know their roles, it definitely was a turning point. However, if we go into this upcoming week and lose three games, Saturday is was for nothing. We need to continue to build on some things and take care of business.”
This week, the Wildcats jump back into the conference schedule with Princeton and North Branch before finishing the week with Cloquet at home. The ‘Cats and Vikings lock horns Thursday in North Branch.
Chisago Lakes 6, Virginia 1
Virginia 001 000 0 1
Chisago Lakes 003 210 X 6
Ploog- 2 H
Swanberg- 2 H
Baumgard- 2 H
Cunningham- 2 H
Reed- 2 RBI
R. Nelson- 2 RBI
WP: Slagerman (1-0)