STERLING – The Sterling softball team got a big inning early, then kept Marengo from turning a productive inning late into a big one in a 5-3 win on Thursday.
Entering the top of the sixth, Sterling led 5-1, and the Indians got a run across early in that frame as Kelly Karczewski executed a suicide squeeze to drive in Jessica Minogue just ahead of a tag from Sterling catcher Karmen Weinrich. With runners at the corners and two out, Maddy Cristopher ripped a single up the middle to drive in Kay Felks, but Kayla Santiago, who had been inserted as a courtesty runner for Karczewski, was held at third.
Moments later, she was still standing at third when Sterling ace Elizabeth Palumbo struck out Mia Lulinski to end the inning.
“After that error with the bunting situation, we all just worked together after Coach talked to us a little bit,” Palumbo said. “We decided we were just going to go for the out instead of looking at the runners.”
Marengo never got anything going in the seventh, with Palumbo striking out the first two batters of the inning, then inducing a grounder to shortstop Amayia Hernandez to end the game.
Marengo had a runner at second in the first inning, but could not score. In the second inning, a leadoff walk did not yield any runs. In the third, Lilly Kunzer hit a one-out double and got stranded at third. Amanda Trotz was stranded at third the following inning.
“She works hard. She is a workhorse,” Sterling coach Becki Edmonson said of Palumbo. “She pitches a lot on her own just trying to make those pitches good, but not good enough to be hit, just to stay in the zone and make them a competitive pitch. She was getting a lot of swings and misses on pitches that were good pitches.”
Palumbo struck out 13 and walked just two in the complete game victory. She allowed eight hits, four of those in the sixth, and stranded nine. She did not allow a ball to leave the infield until the final out of the third inning.
“I was really this game just trusting my defense, so I wasn’t scared to throw any knee balls or anything because I knew they had my back,” she said. “I was just really trusting them at that point.”
Sterling (2-0) got most of its offense in a four-run second inning. Matea Lira led off with a single and scored when Katie Dittmar sent a double off the fence in deep center. Lauren Jacobs drove in Dittmar with a two-out single to right to make it 2-0.
“We had a little bit of a rough game [Wednesday], so we decided to jump on them from the start and keep it going,” Jacobs said. “When I’m at bat, I’m really competitive, and I really do not like striking out, so I’m really serious about hitting the ball where it’s pitched.”
Jacobs came around to score when Hernandez reached on an error, and Palumbo helped her own cause with a single to drive in Hernandez.
Sterling used its speed to add an insurance run in the fourth. Riley Dittmar reached on an infield single, stole second, stole third, and came home when the throw to third went into left field.
“Riley is obviously a very smart girl,” Edmondson said. “She’s very athletic and she can read the field really well. We’ve talked to the girls that there’s some girls that have great speed and can do that on their own, sometimes I’m not even going to give them the signal, they can just do it. We have speed this year, which is not a tool we usually have, so it’s nice to be able to utilize that.”
Marengo (3-9) was able to limit the Golden Warriors after that. Pitcher Brooke Behrens worked around a leadoff Hannah Jacoby double in the fifth, and leave Riley Dittmar stranded at second after she led off the sixth with a single.
Behrens struck out none and walked none, allowing five runs (two earned) and 10 hits.
“Our defense made some nice plays to get out of [jams],” Marengo coach Dwain Nance said. “Behrens is probably pretty tired. She pitched three games Saturday, one Monday, one [Wednesday] and one [Thursday.] I think she’ll go again [Friday]. We have some issues with quarantine.”