ROCK FALLS – Both the Rock Falls Rockets and Oregon Hawks did what they do best Thursday afternoon, each team following its standard operating procedure in a Big Northern West softball game in Rock Falls.
The Rockets jumped out to an early lead with big hits. The Hawks battled back late, putting themselves in position to try and pull off a come-from-behind win with patience at the plate and stellar defense.
But in the end, only one of those styles could come out on top, and Rock Falls’ lead was big enough to withstand Oregon’s comeback in a 7-5 victory. All the Rockets’ runs crossed with two outs.
“That’s what we like to do, come back at the end,” Oregon coach Lindsay Nauman said. “The sixth and seventh innings felt really good. We just couldn’t find those big, clutch hits. The defense look really good today, but we’ve got to produce in key situations.”
Jordan Giddings accomplished the rare feat of picking up a win and a save in the circle for the Rockets (21-4, 10-1). She pitched the first two innings, then was relieved by Michaela Ward in the third after fouling a ball off her leg in the bottom of the second.
She left with a 4-1 lead, after helping her own cause with a two-out, two-run home run in the first inning. Morgan Mammosser added a two-out, two-run single in the second.
Oregon (10-12, 5-7) could have done more damage in the second, but could only muster one run from a bases-loaded jam thanks to Rock Falls throwing out two baserunners at home plate trying to score on wild pitches. Bree Tourtillott’s RBI single to right-center field provided the lone run.
But the Hawks took better advantage of a similar situation in the sixth. They loaded the bases with nobody out against Ward, setting up a two-run single by Tourtillott and an RBI base hit by Abby Baker. With the lead trimmed to 7-4, Rock Falls coach Kris Nunez re-inserted Giddings into the circle.
After Hope Smith drove in a run with a fielder’s choice, Giddings walked Kayla Pottorff, and Smith and Pottorff each moved up a base on a groundout to second. But Giddings struck out Kasey Lapp swinging after Lapp fouled off a pair of two-strike pitches to get out of the jam.
“We rely on Jordan so much,” Rock Falls senior Linsey Brown said, ‘and we just know we can count on her and she’s going to get the job done.”
Giddings (6-1) finished off the save by extricating herself from a jam of her own making in the seventh. After hitting Melissa Youngren and walking Kaitlin Oltmanns with one out, Oregon had the winning run at the plate in the form of Tourtillott.
But a close ball four call to Oltmanns was made up for with a close strike three call on Tourtillott, and Giddings then struck out Baker looking to end it.
“I actually didn’t realize it was the seventh inning until we got that first out and I looked at the scoreboard,” Giddings said. “But I told myself it was just another inning, and tried not to psych myself out anymore than I already was.”
It was the fifth time in seven innings the Hawks left at least two runners on base, and the second time they failed to score in a bases-loaded situation. Tourtillott had three hits of Oregon’s six hits and three of its five RBIs, but the Hawks couldn’t take advantage of seven walks and four hit bastmen; they struck out eight times.
Baker took the loss in the circle despite pitching out of bases-loaded jams in the second and sixth innings. She stranded eight Rockets, but the Hawks left 12 runners on base themselves.
“You could feel our mindset change there at the end of the game,” said Tourtillott, who had three hits and three RBIs. “It always seems to take us a while to realize that we’re actually right there in a game and can win it, but we had a lot of enthusiasm in the last two innings.
“We talk a lot about never giving up, and we know how to keep pushing and battle back. We just have to start earlier.”
Brown and Giddings had two hits each, as seven different Rockets had hits in the game. Ward added a two-out, two-run single in a fourth inning kept alive by a two-out error; Mammosser scored on a wild pitch earlier in the frame. Rock Falls drew three walks and had three girls hit by pitches, and did not strike out in the game.
The top four spots in the order made just two outs at the plate, going 6-for-11 with two walks, three hit batsmen, a fielder’s choice and two reached on errors. Mammosser, Paige Reynolds, Brown and Giddings accounted for five runs and four RBIs.
“The top of our order always seems to get it done,” Brown said, “but we didn’t step up and take advantage of it today. A lot of it was because their defense was really good.”
“Getting those girls on base at the top of the order really gets the momentum going for us,” Giddings added, “and we got ahead early because of that today. We never really thought we had it won, because we knew how good Oregon was, but luckily we got enough of a lead to hold on.”
Rock Falls 7, Oregon 5
Star of the game: Jordan Giddings, RF, got win and save in circle, 6 SO, 5 BB; 2 hits, 2-run HR
Key performers: Linsey Brown, RF, 2 hits, 2 runs; Morgan Mammosser & Michaela Ward, RF, each had 2-run singles; Bree Tourtillott, Oregon, 3 hits, 3 RBIs, 1 run
Up next: Rock Falls at Winnebago, 4:30 p.m. today; Oregon at Richmond-Burton, 10 a.m. Saturday