May 6, 2010 at 9:47 a.m.
Although things have been tough at time for North Branch softball this year, they hoped their fortune would turn around against the Orioles of St. Louis Park last week.
Instead, they pocketed a heart-breaking 10-inning loss to their conference foe and continued their search for more victories.
The Orioles scored in the first inning when they hit two singles and North Branch committed a costly error. The gaffe led to two unearned Oriole runs in the top of the first.
North Branch, though, responded quickly, scoring three of their own runs in the bottom of the first frame. Tiffany Anderson led off with a walk, and she was sacrificed over to second by Emily Trunk.
Anderson, who is a senior, made a headsy play during the next at-bat. As Alley Carlson hit into a fielders choice, Anderson broke for third and got caught in a rundown, allowing Carlson to reach. Although that usually isn't a good trade-off, Anderson ran her way out of the pickle and got all the way home when the Oriole defenders couldn't hold on to the ball. Carlson advanced to second on the play.
After another fielders choice in which Carlson was safe at third, Quiana Quam hit a groundout to second base, and Carlson came home from third base.
The last run of the inning was scored when Kallie Grote, who was pinch running for Kayla Merschdorf, scored on a Chelsea Tollberg single.
The two pitchers dueled it out for the next three innings to make the game fly by, but St. Louis Park scored in the top of the fifth to tie the game up. The game was tied when the lead-off batter walked, advanced a base on two groundouts, and scored on a wild pitch.
Two more errors and two SLP hits gave the Orioles a 4-3 lead in the sixth inning, but in the bottom of the seventh, North Branch struck back when they were down to their last gasp.
Trunk and Carlson led off with back-to-back singles, and an error by the SLP pitcher loaded the bases with no outs. Quam drew a bases-loaded walk to force home a run and leave the Vikings in great position to win it. The SLP pitcher buckled down, however, and retired the next three batters without incident and the game went to extra innings.
The Orioles scored the fifth and final run of the game with a lead-off single, stolen base and one-out double. North Branch couldn't answer back in the bottom of the 10th.
Kelci Lofboom took the tough loss for the Vikings, going all 10 innings, giving up seven hits and five runs, only three earned, and striking out eight Orioles. "Kelci really pitched well today, and it was a shame we were not able to support her better," Head Coach Ron Trunk said. "We recorded the final out in seven of our 10 innings with runners in scoring position."
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