It took a few weeks longer than expected — or hoped for — but the defending state champion Stillwater softball team finally opened the season on Saturday with a Suburban East Conference doubleheader at Park.
The Ponies bounced back from a setback in Game 1 to earn a split and followed that up with Monday’s sweep of Roseville at Stillwater Area High School. Saturday’s opener kicked off a seven-day stretch in which the Ponies are slated to play nine games, weather permitting.
The Ponies have doubleheaders scheduled for Wednesday (Cretin-Derham Hall) and Thursday (White Bear Lake) and a nonconference game scheduled against Hill-Murray on Friday.
“It’s never happened in the 13 years since I’ve been coaching, but it really does give you a chance to jump back into the fire every day,” Stillwater coach Bob Beedle said. “We don’t have a lot of time to practice so there won’t have much time for us to make corrections as we move forward.”
Stillwater 4, Roseville 2
At Oak Park Heights, after throwing a shutout in the opener, Hannah Heacox struck out 9 of the 11 batters she faced in a Game 2 relief appearance to help the Ponies hold off Roseville 4-2 on Monday. Heacox, who came in for starter Rachel Hartwig with one out in the fourth, finished with 23 strikeouts in 10 1/3 innings.
“She really threw that game better than the game she started,” Beedle said.
The Ponies (3-1 SEC, 3-1) trailed 2-0 after three innings, but moved in front with three runs in the fourth. Natalie Gerber singled to start the rally and Roseville contributed two passed balls and two errors to help Stillwater push three runs across. The Ponies added a run in the top of the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Haley Balzart to score Brinna Dochniak from third.
Stillwater 0 0 0 3 0 0 1 — 4 6 3
Roseville 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 — 2 5 3
WP: Rachel Hartwig (2-0) 3 2/3-ip, 4-h, 2-r, 1-er, 1-bb, 2-so
LP: Aryka Knoche 7-ip, 6-h, 4-r, 3-er, 2-bb, 1-so
Leading hitters: St, Natalie Gerber 2×4, Haley Balzart 1×3 (RBI), Rachel Rhode 1×2 (RBI), Sidnee Ronsberg 1×3 and Emily Ramberg 1×2.
Stillwater 1, Roseville 0
Scoreless through the first six innings, Stillwater scored with one out in the bottom of the seventh to overtake the Raiders in Game 1 on Monday.
Gerber led off the seventh inning with a base hit — just the second of the game for the Ponies — before Hartwig reached on a fielder’s choice and scored on a one-out triple by Rachel Rhode to provide the game-winner.
Heacox, meanwhile, allowed just two hits and three walks while striking out 14 in the complete game.
“We played pretty good defense, both teams did,” Beedle said. “It was just a great softball game.”
Roseville 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 — 0 2 0
Stillwater 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 — 1 3 0
WP: Hannah Heacox 7-ip, 2-h, 0-r, 0-er, 3-bb, 14-so
LP: Emma Hylen 6 1/3-ip, 3-h, 1-r, 1-er, 3-bb, 7-so
Leading hitters: St, Haley Balzart 1×3, Natalie Gerber 1×3 and Rachel Rhode 1×2 (3B, RBI).
Stillwater 7, Park 4
At Cottage Grove, on the verge of getting swept by Park in Saturday’s doubleheader, the Ponies rallied for four runs in the top of the seventh to earn a 7-4 conference victory.
Trailing 4-3 after six innings, Morgan Conley sparked the Ponies in the seventh with a lead-off single and Heacox followed with a base hit. Haley Balzart’s RBI single tied the game and Gerber followed with a base hit to push the go-ahead run across. Hartwig extended Stillwater’s lead to 7-4 with a two-run single.
“We were behind in this game and came back and got the win. That’s important that we didn’t drop two games,” Beedle said.
Hartwig also notched the win with four strong innings of work, striking out three while not allowing a hit or walk. Rachel Rhode gave up two earned runs on three hits and one walk in three innings.
Hartwig, Balzart and Sidnee Ronsberg each provided two hits for the Ponies, who finished with 11 in the game.
Still 0 2 0 1 0 0 4 — 7 11 3
Park 0 2 2 0 0 0 0 — 4 3 0
WP: Rachel Hartwig 4-ip, 0-h, 0-r, 0-er, 0-bb, 3-so
LP: Amber Galloway 4-ip, 7-h, 5-r, -er, 2-bb, 0-so
Leading hitters: St, Rachel Hartwig 2×3 (2 RBI), Haley Balzart 2×4 (RBI), Natalie Gerber 1×4 (RBI), Hannah Heacox 1×4, Sidnee Ronsberg 2×4, Lauren Jordan 1×3, Emily Ramberg 1×2 (2 RBI), Morgan Conley 1×2 (RBI).
Park 1, Stillwater 0
It was an inauspicious start for the Hannah Heacox and the Ponies in Game 1 of Saturday’s twin bill. Heacox walked Park lead-off batter Mary Turitto to start the game and a wild pitch and two passed balls later Park scored the only run of the game.
“Heacox was pumped up and the ball was going around a little bit,” Beedle said. “She did settle in and pitched a really nice softball game.”
Perhaps eager to be outside for the first time this spring, the Ponies needed to be more patient at the plate, the coach suggested.
“We were over anxious, and nobody can hit bad pitches consistently.”
The Ponies did not have a batter advance to second base as Alyssa Colley allowed just two hits and two walks with two strikeouts for Park.
“I think we can play better, but it was good to get outside and get started finally,” Beedle said.
Park 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 1 2 0
Still 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 0 2 0
WP: Alyssa Colley 7-ip, 2-h, 0-r, 0-er, 2-bb, 2-so
LP: Hannah Heacox 7-ip, 2-h, 1-r, 0-er, 4-bb, 12-so
Leading hitters: St, Hannah Heacox 1×3 and Haley Balzart 1×3.