Softball: Oregon outslugs Rock Falls in BNC clash

Hawks, Rockets combine for 32 hits, 31 runs in offensive slugfest

Rock Falls' Nicolette Udell powers the ball into the outfield for a single against Oregon on Monday, May 6, 2024 in Rock Falls.

ROCK FALLS – There weren’t too many zeroes put up on the scoreboard Monday when Rock Falls hosted Oregon in a Big Northern Conference softball clash.

The teams combined for 32 runs, 31 hits and 26 RBIs as the Hawks avenged a loss earlier this season with a 21-11 win in six innings.

Both teams got the bats going, as 10 different Oregon players had hits, nine drove in runs, and eight players scored runs. Rock Falls saw all 10 players reach base, eight of them had hits, and seven recorded RBIs in the slugfest.

The Hawks (16-10, 9-7 BNC) got the fireworks started with six runs in the top of the first, as Olivia Paul ripped a two-run single, then scored on a double-steal when the throw went to second base. Brooke Halverson added an RBI single, then two runs scored on a two-out error in the outfield.

“It means a lot to get that fast start. It gets the team going, gets our energy up. It’s pretty big for us to get that big lead,” Abree Barker said. “It was very nice to see this today. It gives us all confidence that we all can get the job done personally, and that helps us play better as a team.”

Another two-out error in the second led to Sarah Stevens’ RBI single, and it was 7-0 Hawks through an inning and a half.

Oregon left fielder Haleigh Burkhart draws a bead on a fly ball against Rock Falls on Monday, May 6, 2024 in Rock Falls.

But Rock Falls (11-5, 7-7 BNC) got its bats warmed up in the bottom of the second, as Nicolette Udell scored on a wild pitch before Emma Skinner and Jeslyn Krueger had RBI hits. Kaltrina Lecaj added a run-scoring sacrifice bunt.

“We just have really good team chemistry, and we’re always trying to keep our energy up, even when we’re down,” Olivia Osborne said. “In the dugout, we’re always cheering for our teammates, we’re always picking each other up and supporting each other, and it really goes a long way when we stay together as a team.”

Oregon answered in the top of the third. Hayleigh Heuerman smacked a two-run homer to left-center, then Ella Dannhorn, Barker and Paul ripped back-to-back-to-back doubles for an 11-4 lead.

“I felt like we kept going, and our team kept pushing each other. We were very loud today in the dugout, supporting each other all the time,” Paul said.

Oregon's Hayleigh Heuerman is all smiles after belting a home run against Rock Falls on Monday, May 6, 2024 in Rock Falls.

The Rockets left the bases loaded in the bottom of the third, but reliever Korah Hosler worked a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the fourth before Rock Falls rallied again.

Jeslyn Krueger beat out an infield single, stole second and scored on an error, then Maddie Morgan blooped a single into short right field for an RBI. Osborne scored on a wild pitch, then Udell ripped an RBI single into left to cut the deficit to 11-8.

“I think our attitudes were good, but we had too many errors and misplays, and they were silly errors, just fundamentals. That’s on us; that shouldn’t happen. I think we’ve just got to learn to calm down and just not take those bunnies for granted,” Udell said. “Normally we have a problem where we take our fielding into our at-bats, and we’ve really been working on that. We didn’t let the errors bother us at the plate today, and we all trusted each other.

“When someone else went up today, we knew we could count on them to get the job done.”

Rock Falls' Zoey Silva begins her swing Monday, May 6, 2024 in Rock Falls.

The Hawks again had the answer in the next inning, scoring eight runs in the top of the fifth. Barker smacked her second RBI double in as many at-bats, then Paul singled her in. Haleigh Burkhart and Kaelin Shaffer ripped RBI singles, then Dannhorn and Barker drew bases-loaded walks before Paul collected her second RBI single of the inning with a two-run base hit to center for a 19-8 lead.

“I just feel where the ball is. I’m not very picky about where it’s at, I just try to put it in play every time,” Paul said. “Our team is very good about doing our best and playing as well as we can no matter where we play in the field or in the batting order.”

“We were very eager to get back up to bat every time,” Barker said. “They beat us before, and we just wanted to get ahead and keep it going, keep our energy up.”

But Rock Falls wasn’t done. Osborne and Ari Reyna ripped RBI singles and Morgan added a run-scoring groundout to extend the game, now trailing 19-11.

Halverson’s two-run single stretched the lead back to 21-11 in the top of the sixth, then she came back into the circle to pitch a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning to end it. Halverson had started the game before giving way to reliever Alexya Czochara in the fourth inning.

Oregon's Ella Dannhorn fires to first for an out against Rock Falls on Monday, May 6, 2024 in Rock Falls.

Paul was 4 for 5 with a double, two runs and six RBIs, and Barker was 3 for 4 with two doubles, three runs and three RBIs. Burkhart had two hits, two runs and an RBI, Stevens and Halverson each had two hits and an RBI, and Czochara and Heuerman each drove in a pair of runs for Oregon.

Udell was 3 for 3 and reached base in all four plates appearances for Rock Falls, scoring a run and driving in another. Skinner had two hits, scored twice and drove in a run. Krueger had two hits, two runs and an RBI, Lecaj scored twice and drove in a run, and Morgan added two RBIs for the Rockets.

“We learned a lot this game. We need to clean some things up, but I think overall we didn’t do too bad,” Osborne said. “We have to cut out the errors and communicate more and just keep fighting when we’re behind.”

“It was a strange game. I don’t know what it was, we just couldn’t get over the hump,” Udell said. “Even though we lost, we were keeping positive thoughts and not focusing on the bad things. We were all trying to have fun, staying loose and just playing softball. I don’t think we thought about the fact that we were losing. We were in the mindset that it was just a game and we can keep working on things.

“Everyone was contributing and doing their job.”

An Oregon single drops between Rock Falls' Emma Skinner (left) and Jeslyn Krueger on Monday, May 6, 2024 in Rock Falls.
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