STERLING – After getting shut out by Newman at home on Tuesday, the Erie-Prophetstown softball team wanted to make sure they didn’t get swept by the Comets in the span of 3 days.
So the Panthers brought their hitting shoes to Sterling, and used a seven-run sixth inning to catapult past the Comets 14-7 on Thursday afternoon.
“Definitely with the outcome of our first game against Newman, I feel like we had a lot of fire in us today,” said Hannah Kolling, who had three hits and four RBIs. “I think we knew that it would be a battle, but we had more positivity today. Throughout the lineup, I think all of us did well with keeping each other up, so I think that helped out a lot.”
Erie-Prophetstown (6-3, 2-2 TRAC East) scored two runs each in the first and third innings. Erica Thulen and Kolling had RBI hits in the first, then Calisa Steel homered and Thulen ripped her second RBI double in as many at-bats in the third for a 4-0 lead.
Newman (5-4, 4-1) answered with four runs in the third, as Hailey Frank smoked a long two-run single, then Trinity Martinez followed with an RBI double. Frank was thrown out at home on that play, but the Comets tied it when Martinez scored on a two-out error.
“When we got down, I just know that we wanted to get the momentum back on our side,” Frank said. “[Wednesday against Milledgeville], we had five runs in one inning, and we were excited because we knew we could do that.”
The Comets took the lead in the next inning, on Kate Bonnell’s RBI grounder and Frank’s RBI single. After Kolling ripped another RBI double in the top of the fifth to drive in Thulen, who earned an unintentional intentional walk, to get the Panthers within 6-5, Newman pushed the lead back to two on Josie Rank’s two-out RBI double in the bottom of the frame.
That’s when Erie-Prophetstown put it all together. Olivia-Hope Toppert and Makenzie Glassburn – the Panthers’ 8-9 hitters – led off the top of the sixth with back-to-back singles, then Steel smacked a ground-rule double to drive in Toppert. Sophia Sullivan laid down a bunt, and a throwing error allowed Glassburn to score from third and tie the score at 7.
Dena Johnson’s two-run single gave EP the lead, then Kolling followed with a two-run single after Thulen was officially intentionally walked.
“I think we had a lot of girls hitting the ball hard today. We usually do, because we have a good team of hitters,” Kolling said. “We had a good amount of confidence today.”
That knocked out reliever Elle Koerner in favor of starter Frank, who came back in and got three quick outs after the Comets’ third error of the inning, but not before Kolling scored on Jessica Woodworth’s groundout. When the dust settled, the Panthers had turned a 7-5 deficit into a 12-7 lead.
“We relaxed a lot, and we kept saying, ‘See the ball and we’ll do fine.’ Having confidence was the main thing,” Steel said. “We just wanted to be focused and keep hitting the ball hard like we were, and we obviously did that. And after we got the lead, we wanted to keep down the errors, and play as solid of defense as possible.”
Newman never seriously threatened again, and Johnson added a sacrifice fly in the top of the seventh before Thulen ripped a triple and scored on an error for a 14-7 lead in the top of the seventh.
“At some point in the year, with a young team, you’re going to have a bad inning, and we picked the sixth inning tonight to have one of those innings,” Newman coach JD Waldschmidt said. “Kudos to EP, because they did a nice job of hitting, top to bottom, and they squared a lot of balls up today.
“They put pressure on us defensively, and we didn’t respond. I thought we played on our heels defensively, especially the latter part of the game, and that’s not how we’ve played all year.”
Steel, Thulen and Kolling each had three hits, and Glassburn added two more. Kolling had four RBIs, Johnson drove in three, and Steel and Thulen knocked in two runs apiece. Seven different Panthers had hits, and seven different Panthers scored runs. Steel (6-3) went the distance in the circle for the win.
Frank and Madison Craft each had two hits to lead the Comets, and Frank had three RBIs. Newman stranded at least one runner on base in every inning, and Koerner (3-1) took the loss after replacing Frank in the top of the third inning.
“It was just kind of a night where we couldn’t put a string of good hits together,” Frank said. “Everybody did their part at certain times, it just wouldn’t click together tonight. It’s tough seeing the balls that are really well-hit just go right to them. And then, they had hits in our gaps, and that just couldn’t happen tonight for us, I guess.”
Erie-Prophetstown 14, Newman 7
Star of the game: Hannah Kolling, EP, 3-for-5, 2B, 4 RBIs, 1 run
Key performers: Calisa Steel, EP, 3-for-4, 2B, HR, 2 RBIs, 4 runs; Erica Thulen, EP, 3-for-3, 2 2Bs, 3B, 2 BBs, 2 RBIs, 4 runs; Dena Johnson, EP, 3 RBIs; Hailey Frank, Newman, 2-for-4, 3 RBIs; Josie Rank, Newman, 2-for-4, RBI 2B, 1 run; Madison Craft, Newman, 2-for-4, 2B, 1 run
Up next: Erie-Prophetstown at Rockridge, 4:30 p.m. today; Newman at Pearl City (doubleheader), 11 a.m. Saturday