By STUART GROSKREUTZ
OAK PARK HEIGHTS – Occasional miscues in the field didn’t derail the Stillwater softball team on Tuesday with Rachel Rhode sharp on the mound to lead the Ponies to a 7-0 victory over East Ridge in the quarterfinals of the Section 4AAA tournament at Stillwater Area High School.
The third-seeded Ponies (14-7) advanced to face No. 2 seed North St. Paul in the semifinals on Thursday as the tournament now shifts to a double-elimination format. In other games Tuesday, No. 8 Roseville upset top-seeded Hill-Murray 2-1 to earn a spot in the semifinals against fourth-seeded White Bear Lake, a 4-2 winner over South St. Paul.
Stillwater uncharacteristically committed four errors, but Rhode allowed just one walk and two hits while striking out 10 in the complete game shutout. The Raptors (10-10), who defeated White Bear Lake on Friday to create a three-way tie with the Bears, Stillwater and Mounds View in the Suburban East Conference standings, stranded seven base runners in the game.
"She had pretty good command of her pitches and location," Ponies coach Bob Beedle said. "She kept them off balance with her change-up and her rise ball had them swinging at air.
"We have a lot of respect for East Ridge. They have a good team, they’re well coached and this is a solid win for our team. We hope we can play well on Thursday. We’re just glad to be in the double elimination part of the tournament and we’re looking forward to playing North on Thursday."
Rhode worked out of trouble in the first and second innings – striking out the No. 3 and 4 hitters with a runner on third in the first and getting a strikeout and lineout with a runner on second to keep the Raptors scoreless in the second.
Stillwater scored four times in the third inning behind five straight two-out hits to grab control of the game. Allison Eder-Zdechlik and Natalie Gerber singled before Heacox delivered a run-scoring double. Sidnee Ronsberg followed with a two-run double and Emily Ramberg plated Ronsberg with a base hit for a 4-0 lead.
"We had some timely hitting there with two outs," Beedle said.
The Ponies also struck with two outs in the fourth. Dani Wigen singled before Eder-Zdechlik drove a base hit and Gerber reached on an error as Wigen and Eder-Zdechlik both scored for a six-run cushion.
Stillwater added a run in the sixth on an RBI single by Eder-Zdechlik for her third hit of the game.
"We have to catch the ball a little better as we move forward, but we like to think seven runs is a cushion for our pitcher," Beedle said. "When you give them five extra outs that’s not going to work against other teams."
The Ponies have won six of their past seven games.
East Ridge0 0 0 0 0 0 0-023
Stillwater0 0 4 2 0 1 x-7124
WP: Rachel Rhode (3-2) 7-ip, 2-h, 0-r, 0-er, 1-bb, 10-so
LP: Kelsey Ihns 6-ip, 12-h, 7-r, 5-er, 0-bb, 6-so
Leading hitters: ER, Taylor LeMay 1×3 (2B) and Amanda Robinson No. 7 1×3; St, Allison Eder-Zdechlik 3×4 (RBI), Carlie Hart 2×4, Haley Balzart 1×3, Natalie Gerber 1×4, Hannah Heacox 1×4 (RBI), Sidnee Ronsberg 2×3 (2B, 2 RBI), Emily Ramberg 1×2 (RBI) and Dani Wigen 1×3.
Roseville 3, St. Paul Como Park 0
South St. Paul 5, Woodbury 3
W. Bear Lake 13, Mahtomedi 0 (5)
East Ridge 16, Tartan 1
C.-Derham Hall 6, SP Johnson 0
Roseville 2, Hill-Murray 1
White Bear Lake 4, S. St. Paul 2
Stillwater 7, East Ridge 0
N. St. Paul 12, C-D Hall 0 (5)
At McKnight Fields
#8 Roseville vs. #4 White Bear Lake, 4:30 p.m.
#3 Stillwater vs. #2 North St. Paul, 4:30 p.m.