Osakis erases two deficits, bats wake up in sixth-inning to beat LPGE
Trailing by one run twice, Osakis battled back to avenge an early-season loss to LPGE to add to impressive offensive resume this season.
It took a couple of innings for the Osakis softball team to settle into its rematch with Long Prairie-Grey Eagle on Tuesday night. The Silverstreaks’ bats came alive in the late innings to overcome two one-run deficits to avenge an April 30 loss to the Thunder.
Osakis (11-3) has been carried on the back of its offense all season, and it was the contagious hitting that got the Silverstreaks over the hump Tuesday night.
“Hitting is always contagious,” Osakis head coach John Stigman said. “We’ve got kids who have some speed. It makes it easier when you can get a kid on first and then they’re on second one pitch later. It helps a ton that these girls feed off each other hitting and running the bases.”
LPGE produced a run in the top of the third inning on a sacrifice fly to centerfield. One inning later, the Thunder tried getting a runner in scoring position but was caught stealing to end the inning. Osakis responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth, which was highlighted by an RBI double from senior Laynee Hartshorn.
The momentum swung when Hartshorn gunned down the LPGE baserunner, shifting the momentum in favor of Osakis.
“We all came into the dugout and said ‘It’s rally time,’” Hartshorn said.
Hartshorn has been on fire in her last three games. She’s collected three extra-base hits, including two home runs. Her approach at the plate is simple.
“I’m there to tear the cover off the ball,” Hartshorn said.
LPGE answered with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth inning with a bases-loaded single, but the Silverstreaks manufactured a run out of nothing in the bottom of the frame.
Kali Schoeck scored from second on Grace Oeltjen’s infield single to tie the game. Schoeck reached base on a throwing error with two outs when she tried to bunt for a single. Schoeck is one of the many Silverstreaks who can steal bases.
“We try as best we can to have a lineup that 1-9 has something to offer,” Stigman said. “We run that traditional lineup with speed to help out our offense. It can really throw a pitcher off too.”
Junior Hayleigh Niehoff got in trouble against the top of LPGE’s batting order a couple of times, but when her team needed her to preserve the tie, she stepped up. Niehoff struck out four batters in the final two innings to hold the Thunder to three runs.
In the bottom of the sixth, Osakis brought its heart of the order up to bat. Senior Tia Dykema got on base with a single before Hartshorn reached with an error. Niehoff loaded the bases for sophomore Shelbe Schmidt, who drove in Dykema with a single.
Hartshorn delivered several blows to the Thunder defense, which is a product of the way she practices.
“She’s one of the hardest working hitters we’ve had in a long time,” Stigman said. “She’s a kid in the cage that lives up to making sure her last swing is her best swing. If you don’t like that swing, take another one. She just keeps asking for more and keeps working at it. She’s trying to get that perfect swing. She’s a great leader, her and Tia both.”
Lexi Klimek hit the ball hard all night but was robbed of two hits by the LPGE outfield. In her third at-bat, she made no mistake in her swing and drove in two runs to give Osakis a 6-3 lead. Schmidt crossed home on a fielder’s choice to cap off the big inning for the Silverstreaks. Niehoff shut down the Thunder offense in the top of the seventh to secure Osakis’ 11th win of the season.
Coming into Tuesday’s game, Osakis averaged a section-best 12.6 runs per game. As a team, the Silverstreaks are hitting .379 at the plate with an on-base-plus-slugging of 1.026. Niehoff, Dykema and Oeltjen are all hitting over .500 on the season.
Osakis’ offensive identity has changed throughout Stigman’s time as head coach. At one point, he relied on power bats to be the big run producers, but now it’s a more well-rounded approach at the plate throughout the lineup.
“We’ve had some good hitting teams from about 2008-12, but they were good power-hitting teams,” Stigman said. “This group has a lot of contact. The teams we had back then were pretty much all swings. I’d say this team is a little bit more well-rounded that can also punch one out of the park sometimes.”
Osakis’ schedule is back-loaded with some of the top teams in the section, which means they’re going up against the kind of pitching that wins championships. Hartshorn welcomes the opportunity to hit in playoff-type at-bats late in the year.
“We like it,” Hartshorn said. “It’s kind of funny because it’s either teams that we know we can take care of business against or teams that we know we have to work to beat. It’s good to jump around a little bit with those different skill levels. It’s giving us a good mindset going into the playoffs.”
LPGE 001 200 0 - 3
OSAKIS 000 214 X - 7
OSAKIS HITTING- Grace Oeltjen 2-4, SB, RBI, R; Kennedy George 0-4; Tia Dykema 1-2, BB, 2SB, 2R; Laynee Hartshorn 1-3, 2B, RBI, 2R; Hayleigh Niehoff 1-2, BB, R; Shelbe Schmidt 1-2, Sac Fly, RBI, R; Lexi Klimek 1-3, 2RBI; Maggie Dirkes 1-3; Kali Schoeck 0-3, RBI, SB;
PITCHING- Niehoff- W, 8K, 4H, 3R, 3ER, 4BB, 2HBP