By STUART GROSKREUTZ
OAK PARK HEIGHTS – The Stillwater softball team knocked off Hastings 8-3 on Monday to close out its Suburban East Conference schedule with victories in four of its last five games.
The only loss for the Ponies during that span was a 1-0 setback against conference champion and No. 2 ranked Forest Lake. Stillwater (11-7 SEC, 12-7) is currently third in the conference standings, but could join a three-way tie for second if White Bear Lake (11-6, 11-6) loses to East Ridge in its final league contest on Friday. Mounds View (12-7) also finished 11-7 in league play.
"We think we’re playing pretty good," Ponies coach Bob Beedle said. "Most games in this conference you’re going to see were one- or two-run ballgames. From top to bottom, everybody has been pecking away at each other with the exception of Forest Lake – and Forest Lake has at least five extra-inning games that I know of."
Hastings jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first, but the Ponies answered with two runs in the second and another in the third for a 3-1 lead. Sidnee Ronsberg, who reached three times without collecting hit, was hit by a pitch to start the second and stole second before scoring when Emily Ramberg reached on an error.
Ramberg also stole second and Allison Pasiuk reached on a dropped third strike before Ramberg was cut down at the plate while trying to score from second on a bunt by Dani Wigen. Carlie Hart drove a base hit to score Pasiuk with the go-ahead run.
Allison Eder-Zdechlik started the third with a base hit and advanced to third before scoring on a groundout by Hannah Heacox for a 3-1 lead.
The Raiders (7-11, 7-11) closed the gap with a run in the fourth, but Stillwater pushed a run across in the fifth and pulled away with a four-run sixth inning.
Natalie Gerber singled with two outs in the fourth and scored all the way from first as an attempted pick-off throw sailed down the right-field line.
Stillwater sent eight batters to the plate in the sixth, scoring its first three runs on a triple by Wigen, a single by Hart and a double by Haley Balzart, who then scored on a base hit by Eder-Zdechlik for an 8-2 lead.
Rachel Rhode, who allowed six hits and five walks while striking out six before running into some trouble in the seventh. Rachel Hartwig recorded the final two outs.
"It’s nice to score some runs the last couple of games and if we can do that we’re confidence our defense and pitching can work with that," Beedle said.
Hastings1 0 0 1 0 0 1-363
Stillwater0 2 1 0 1 4 x-881
WP: Rachel Rhode (2-1) 6 1/3-ip, 6-h, 3-r, 2-er, 5-bb, 6-so
LP: Courtney Van De Velde 6-ip, 8-h, 8-r, -er, 2-bb, 2-so
Leading hitters: Has, Michaela Mills 2×2, Hailey Lundquist 1×2, Van De Velde 1×4; St, Carlie Hart 3×4 (2 RBI), Haley Balzart 1×3 (RBI), Allison Eder-Zdechlik 2×4 (RBI), Natalie Gerber 1×4 and Dani Wigen 1×3 (3B, RBI).