OREGON – Strong pitching was a major factor in regional championships last week for both Oregon and Riverdale. Thursday, when the two teams met at Park West for the sectional softball crown, that pitching was on display again.
Though Oregon’s Mia Trampel was cruising much of the way in the circle, it was the Rams’ Ashlyn Hemm outdoing her, striking out 16 and throwing her fourth no-hitter of the season in a 3-0 Riverdale win.
Hemm no-hit Stillman Valley, striking out 19, in last-week’s regional final, while Oregon won its regional with Trampel outdueling Erie-Prophetstown’s Aylah Jones in a 2-0 Hawks win the following day.
But the sectional meeting was all about Hemm, retiring the side in order in five of the seven innings.
“I think all my spins were working, but what was best was my defense behind me,” Hemm said. “They really helped on that bunt defense.”
Oregon hitters attempted to bunt their way aboard three times in the game. All three went for routine outs. The Hawks also had a pop-up and a grounder. The other 16 outs in the game were recorded via Hemm strikeouts, with no ball off an Oregon bat leaving the infield all evening.
“That first inning we were trying to figure out what the strike zone was, and she made the adjustments,” Riverdale coach Randy Creen said. “I have to give kudos to the catcher, Hailey VenHyzin, she calls the game and she did a hell of a job calling the game.”
While Hemm was cruising, so was Trampel, though she had much more help from her defense, inducing seven pop-ups or liners in her five innings in the circle.
“She has such good movement on her pitches,” Oregon coach Nate Rogers said. “I don’t think she was getting a lot of the swings and misses that we’ve seen earlier in the year. She’s pitched a lot of ballgames, but she had enough good stuff where it was keeping them off-balance, getting weak contact.”
Both teams had runners on in the first. Riverdale’s Lexi Duke reached on an error in the top of the inning, but a pair of pop-outs ended that threat and left her stranded at first. In the bottom of the inning, Bella Koertner drew a one-out walk, then stole second and went to third on a passed ball. But Hemm struck out the next two Hawks to end the inning and leave Koertner stranded at third. That wound up being the only walk Hemm issued.
From there, both pitchers solidified their control. The Rams went down in order in the second and third, with only one ball leaving the infield, that a routine fly ball for Ava Hackman in center.
Hemm was in even greater control, striking out the side in the second and third and retiring the Hawks in order in the fourth and fifth, striking out four of the six batters she saw in those two innings.
Oregon did not so much as put a ball in play until the fourth, when Liz Mois put down a bunt but was retired 5-4.
Oregon (24-8) got its second baserunner of the game in the sixth, when Hemm was called for an illegal pitch, putting Reilee Suter on first with two outs. But a pop-up to short ended that threat. Oregon then went down in order in the seventh.
Riverdale (18-5) broke through in the fourth when Alivia Bark and Laken Larsen hit back-to-back one-out singles, and a throwing error put runners at second and third. Reagan Walsten followed with a sacrifice bunt to bring home Bark with the first run of the game.
Riverdale scored a second run moments later. Hemm hit a grounder to short with two outs and the throw to first was wide of the mark, but hit a Riverdale coach. The runner from third scored and the run was allowed, but Hemm was ruled out due to coach’s interference, ending the inning.
The Rams added a run in the fifth as Duke hit a single up the middle to score Sydney Haas. Two more singles followed, loading the bases and chasing Mia Trampel from the game. In came Lena Trampel, who worked her way out of the jam by striking out the first two hitters she faced and getting the third to ground out.
“Lena has really been working. Some of her stuff has been coming around,” Rogers said. “Her changeup is really filthy, and her rise is starting to bite up now. We have total confidence in her, too.”
After retiring the first three batters she saw in the sixth, Lena Trampel was able to limit the Rams to a two-out infield single in the seventh, ending the inning on a fielders choice moments later. She worked two scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out two.