By STUART GROSKREUTZ – Stillwater Gazette
FOREST LAKE – A wild pitch in the bottom of the seventh inning broke a scoreless tie as Forest Lake slipped past Stillwater 1-0 in Thursday night’s Suburban East Conference softball game.
The second-ranked Rangers (16-1 SEC, 16-1), who suffered their first loss of the season on Wednesday after already clinching the conference championship, rode a strong pitching performance by Micah McGuiness.
Stillwater (10-7, 10-7) only struck out twice, but managed just three hits against McGuiness, who did not issue a walk in the complete game victory in the rare night game.
"Out of 21 outs, 14 were flyouts," Ponies coach Bob Beedle said. "We’re making contact, but she had that rise ball and we were getting underneath it."
Rachel Rhode matched McGuiness through six scoreless innings, but the Rangers eventually broke through for the deciding run in the seventh. Mikayla Watters led off the seventh with a double and – after a walk – advanced to third, but was tagged out at home on a squeeze bunt attempt.
Forest Lake, however, followed with a base hit to load the bases and the wild pitch allowed the winning run to score.
"Rhode held them to one run," Beedle said. "She didn’t really have the best command of her pitches and eventually they got to her in that last inning."
The loss was disappointing, but going toe-to-toe with the conference champion and reigning state runner-up was not discouraging, the coach suggested.
"It was a well played, classic softball game," Beedle said. "It was a great evening for softball. We still felt pretty good about playing the No. 2 team in the state and taking them right to the wire. We still like our chances. We think the performance was positive."
Stillwater managed just three hits, but threatened with runners on first and second in the top of the seventh before a sharp grounder was snared by the third baseman for a force out to end the threat.
Sidnee Ronsberg, Carlie Hart and Haley Balzart each collected one hit for the Ponies.
Stillwater0 0 0 0 0 0 0-031
Forest Lake0 0 0 0 0 0 1-151
WP: Micah McGuiness 7-ip, 3-h, 0-r, 0-er, 0-bb, 2-so
LP: Rachel Rhode 6 1/3-ip, 5-h, 1-r, 1-er, 5-bb, 5-so
Leading hitters: Sidnee Ronsberg, Carlie Hart and Haley Balzart each finished with one hit for Stillwater.