By Jim Rueda
Free Press Sports Editor
For one inning Friday, the Mankato West softball team got four timely hits in five straight at-bats and put together the game-tying rally in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The six innings before and the four innings after, however, the key hits were few. The result was a 9-6, 11-inning loss to Shakopee in a season-opening nonconference game at the West field.
“We talked about that after the game,” West coach Don Krusemark said. “We got a bunch of clutch hits in the seventh but not too much before and after. We had a lot of opportunities that we missed out on.”
West trailed 3-1 through five innings before closing the gap to one run on a solo homer by Malorie Veroeven in the sixth. Shakopee answered with a three-run homer to right-center off the bat of Hannah Mendez in the seventh for a 6-2 lead.
That’s when the West bats came to life. After Lexy Schoper reached on an error, she moved to second on a hit by Jessica Goerger.
Veroeven followed with an RBI double to left-center. Callie Looft and Kenzie Franke added RBI singles before Bre Black tied the game up with a run-scoring hit to left.
“It was kind of crazy for awhile,” said Veroeven, who went the distance on the mound for the Scarlets. “It took us awhile to get our bats going, but then we scored some runs.”
West’s offense disappeared as suddenly as it materialized. The Scarlets managed just one base runner over the next three innings.
In the top of the 11th, Veroeven walked the bases loaded. Shakopee’s Kayla Star followed with an RBI single, and Kailee Mamula added a two-run single to give the Sabres a 9-6 lead.
West put two runners on with one out in the bottom half of the inning, but winning pitcher Alex Walker got a strikeout and an infield grounder to end the game. The Scarlets finished with 15 hits, and Shakopee had 11.
Veroeven led the West attack, going 3 for 6 with a double, home run and two RBIs. Lauren Makela also had three hits, while Franke and Black finished with two apiece.
O’Connor had a big day for Shakopee, belting a two-run homer and two singles and getting a walk to finish with three RBIs. Mendez was 3 for 5 and also had three RBIs.
“They’re one of the better teams in our section so it was good to get a chance to play them,” Veroeven said. “Hopefully it will be different the next time we see them.”
The Scarlets (0-1) are back in action Monday at Rochester John Marshall.