ROCK FALLS – In a game full of crazy plays and elegant pitching, Dixon’s softball team got the clutch the two teams were looking for on Tuesday as Sam Tortilot’s home run, in the 10th inning, pushed the Dukes past the Rock Falls. 5-3 in the struggle of the Great Northern Conference.
After the Rockets tied the game down the sixth inning, Dixon’s Eli Jarrett pulled off the hook in the seventh inning, and Rock Falls champion Katie Thatcher worked to break out of congestion in the eighth and ninth inning. But a tortelot took her place on the first pitch of her fifth bet in the race green in round 10.
“It was nice to finally get a win in one of these close matches,” Tortelot said. “We worked it out, made some good tweaks, and found a way to get it done.”
It was the biggest hit of a home leg that saw Dixon advance 3-0, only to have Rock Falls score singles runs in the third, fourth and sixth rounds to force the additions.
Tortilot and Ava Falk broke the double lead in rounds eight and nine for Dixon (13-5, 10-4 PNC), but Thatcher stranded for second.
“I’m just trying to let the defense work and trust my teammates, throwing the pitches I needed to get those goals we needed to get,” Thatcher said of high-pressure situations late in the game.
In the 10th inning, Billy Tiggler knocked out one stroke, then smashed Tortelot next court over the center field fence to advance 5-3.
“I just wanted to attack the first pitch. It’s the 10th inning, the bowler got tired, and I just wanted to swing well and help my team,” Tortilot said.
Fastball down the middle. Thatcher said with a sad smile.
Phillips followed him with one song, then Izzie McCommons made a mistake by putting two more Duchesses at the base, with no one around. But Thatcher urged the pick of a back-to-back soccer player, and then after hitting Olivia Moyer with a pitch to load the bases, she got back to finish the inning and keep the margin at two rounds.
At the bottom of 10th place, Jarrett had two ground rounds before Savannah Fritz singled out and went to third due to a mistake. But Jarrett jumped high to crash the chopper straight into the circuit and threw a one-hand hit to take the win first.
Dixon snatched a 1-0 lead at the top of Game One when Tortilot reached for a foul and Anna-Kate Phillips hit one on the field with two wins, then advanced to second and third on unruly ground. Then Tortelot came home on a wild court on the third hit that would have ended the game.
At the top of the third set, the Dukes added two more runs. Tegeler used her speed to turn a bad-hop grounder into a double with one, then slipped under the mark for third in Tourtillott’s fielder game. Tourtillott finished second on the next court, and Phillips tore a solo run down the middle to advance 3-0 Dixon.
“We built momentum right away, and that was big,” Jarrett said. “We were going to play in defense and come back and start hitting again.”
Rocket answered (19-8, 10-3 BNC) at the bottom of the stroke. Brock Howard advanced by one song, then went to second and third in a pair of wildflowers. After Jarrett had back-to-back hits, Zoe Morgan rips the single to the right to drive in Howard.
In the fourth inning, Taylor Reyna hit a two-base error to lead, then went to third on the field with Fritz before scoring on unruly ground.
Rock Falls tied for sixth. He picked Riley Johnson on his own, then went to second on the ground and third on the Howard Blob single. Howard finished second on the next court, then another wild ground allowed Johnson to score and put Howard in third with a possible green light.
But Jarrett hit a strike to end the inning.
In fact, the rookie Dixon cut seven rockets at the center of the scoring, and came out in the first, fifth, sixth and tenth rounds with the runners in third. Jarrett allowed three runs (two got) and 11 hits in 10 runs, crossed out 14 and walked twice.
“You just have to stay calm in those situations, have confidence in your defense, make good shots, and be confident in what you’re throwing,” Jarrett said.
The hardest round was down the seventh inning. Thatcher kicked off with a triple, then Madison Morgan drawing one round; I got close to first and kept running into second to try and draw a throw to allow Thatcher to score from third. The Dukes deliberately walked in with Rina to load the bases into one.
Fritz came and hit the soft liner at the start. Phillips grabbed the ball, then shot into third to double that of Thatcher, who was halfway home. But Phillips’ throw was low and bypassed third base, so Thatcher turned and ran home with the clear win.
But when McCommons, Dixon’s third base officer, got the ball back and put it back in play, Thatcher didn’t have to dance. Thatcher realized this and tried to get back into third place, but McCommons called it third place in the most unusual double play at the end.
“I didn’t know what was going on until Izzi got the ball back and they were yelling at her for the starting player because she didn’t put the tags on,” Jarrett said.
This seemed to spark the Dukes, who put the runners at the base in all three extra rounds, while Jarrett worked 1-2-3 in the eighth and ninth before edging out the runner-up in the 10th.
“Once we got into the extra innings, we realized we had to jump the pitcher,” Tortelot said. “It was the fourth or fifth time we saw it, so we kind of got used to it. We were really good at making adjustments and we just knew we had to get some runners, put pressure on them.”
Thatcher gave up five runs (four earned) and nine hits in 10, hit 12 and hit hits while not allowing a walk. From the final inning of the third inning to the end of the seventh inning, 13 Duchess retired in a row, then fell back around those duets in the eighth and ninth to keep the Rockets in.
“Really finding the strike zone was key,” Thatcher said. “I was kind of all over the place, and as soon as I found him, I really called him, and really trusted my defense to work behind me. It was a long day, but we went ahead and did our best.”