Chargers come up clutch
The grass wasn’t green and the parking lot was too muddy to park in on Tuesday afternoon, but they were playing softball in Brandon and that’s all that mattered to a group of athletes that were tired of practicing in a gym.
Chargers’ first-year head coach Kasi Huschle came out to the field this past Saturday and there were a couple inches of water on the infield. By Sunday it was gone and Brandon-Evansville was preparing to play in a season opener that would turn into a tight 5-4 win over Morris Area.
“It was a lot different than pitching in a gym, that’s for sure,” senior starting pitcher Kinsley Randt said after going the distance against the Tigers. “It was good to get the first game out of the way.”
Randt went into the top of the seventh inning with a 5-3 lead, but a single and two errors loaded the bases with just one out. That brought Morris’ Lauren Reimers to the plate, who had already smacked a deep home run to center field in the third, with the go-ahead run at first.
“We just wanted her to hit her spots,” Huschle said of a meeting with Randt at the mound. “Don’t give her anything really good to hit and see if we can work out of it. Put her in a situation where we can make her hit a ground ball.”
Randt didn’t get a ground ball, but she kept the ball off the plate and forced Reimers to hit a sacrifice fly to left field that kept the tying run at third. That’s exactly where it stayed as the senior ace induced a ground out to second base in the next at-bat to secure the win.
“She was just trying to say get the out, we’re playing for outs now,” Randt said of Huschle’s message heading into that at-bat with Reimers. “Get the lead runner and don’t worry about anything else. Obviously, don’t throw it down the middle at her, but just pitch it and see if she puts it in play and see if the defense can pick it up.”
Randt finished the day allowing just two earned runs on six hits allowed and two walks. She struck out three and worked around five Brandon-Evansville errors.
Her offense helped her out by giving her a 3-1 lead to work with after one inning. The Chargers got three straight two-out hits in the bottom of the first when Emma Friedrich started the scoring with an RBI single. Randt followed with a run-scoring double of her own before senior second baseman Sara Roers connected on an RBI double in the next at-bat.
The Tigers got those two runs back in the top of the third, but that set the table for a big at-bat by Carrigan Okerlund. The Chargers’ freshman catcher came up with two outs and runners on second and third in the bottom of the fifth and delivered the biggest hit of the night on a sharp single to left field. That proved to be the game winner as two runs scored to make it a 5-3 game.
“I knew I needed to get it in play and I needed to get somebody home,” Okerlund said. “I saw a strike. I definitely knew it was going to be there, and I made sure that I got contact.”
Okerlund was the catalyst for this offense out of the third spot in the lineup. She finished 2-for-3 with a triple, a run scored and those two RBIs.
Most notable for this offense was that all five runs came with two outs. Huschle said she is as confident in her hitters with two outs as she is with none. That comes with having an experienced lineup that returns seven starters from a year ago.
“We return a lot of experience,” Huschle said. “They know situations. They know each other and how each other plays, which is the biggest thing, knowing where each other’s going to be is really big for us and it’s hopefully going to help us a lot down the road.”
The Chargers are hoping that experience will translate to a few more wins this year after going 9-9 and 6-3 in the Pheasant Conference with a young roster a year ago. It was just one game, but Brandon-Evansville showed some good things in beating a Class AA team that finished 13-9 a year ago.
“It’s great,” Huschle said. “The first game is always great but to be able to come out in a close game like that with the bases loaded and work out of it at the end is huge, especially with our younger girls to be in a situation like that. It’s going to be a great morale booster and get us going in the right direction for the season.”
MORRIS AREA 102 000 1 – 4 6 1
B-E 300 020 X – 5 5 5
PITCHING – Morris – Pring – L, 6IP, 5H, 5R, 2ER, 1BB, 10SO; B-E – Randt – W, 7IP, 6H, 4R, 2ER, 2BB, 3SO
HITTING – B-E – Okerlund – 2-3, 3B, 1 run, 2 RBI; Randt – 1-2, 2B, BB, RBI; Roers – 1-3, 2B, RBI