De Pere outlasts Bay Port in wild game
By Rich Palzewic
SUAMICO – De Pere pitcher McKayleigh Piper had a strong game with her arm and bat, but ultimately her glove decided the outcome.
Leading by a single run with two outs and a runner on third in the bottom of the seventh inning, Piper snagged a wicked line drive headed for center field off the bat of Bay Port’s Aliyah Smentana to end the game.
The game-ending nab by Piper helped the Redbirds escape with a wild 11-10 Fox River Classic Conference victory over the Pirates April 18 at Bay Port High School.
The game was originally scheduled for De Pere, but field conditions there prompted the change.
“There was a lot of emotion after I caught that ball,” said Piper, who also had two hits at the plate and picked up the pitching win on the mound. “It was just a reaction, but I was glad to catch it. It was a hard smash.”
Piper struck out four and walked three in improving the Redbirds to 7-1 overall and 5-1 in the FRCC.
After De Pere lost its opening game of the season to conference-leader Ashwaubenon, it has won seven straight.
The game had the ups and downs of a roller coaster, with the Redbirds jumping out to a 4-0 lead after two innings, only to watch the Pirates (2-6, 2-3) grab a 5-4 advantage after three.
Single tallies by De Pere in the fourth and fifth innings swung the momentum back in its favor before adding five insurance runs in the seventh to take a commanding 11-5 lead.
Bay Port plated five runs in its last at-bat before the final out.
“Bay Port did a tremendous job of coming back,” said De Pere head coach Matt Eakin. “I didn’t quite expect the game to end that way, but it was an exciting game and I had a smile on my face the whole time. I was pretty nervous there at the end.”
Trailing 11-7 with two outs in the seventh, the big blow for the Pirates came with the bases loaded.
Jourdan Lee, who also had an RBI single in the third, came through with a bases-clearing triple down the right-field line to bring Bay Port to within one.
Prior to Lee’s last at-bat, Eakin decided to intentionally walk Maddy Ehlke for the third time in the game.
Eakin also gave Ehlke a free pass in the fourth and sixth innings.
“I just have that much respect for Maddy,” Eakin added. “I apologized to her for it, and I know she wanted to hit in those situations, but I’d do it all over again. The first two times we walked her it worked in our favor with us getting out of the inning with no runs. The last time we did it, Lee smoked that ball down the line. Give credit to her.”
Combined with her three walks, Ehlke reached base all five times with her two hits.
She also scored three runs.
The teams combined for 10 errors – five by Bay Port and five by De Pere.
“We gave De Pere too many runs with our defense, but I was proud of the girls with how they came back both times,” said Bay Port head coach Amber Francour. “They didn’t hang their heads, and they kept fighting.”
After freshman Emma Krueger started on the mound for the Pirates and went two innings, Francour brought in senior Nicole Vandervest for the final five innings.
“Nicole pitched really well,” Francour added. “She has been working really hard in that area, working with a new pitch tonight. She did a phenomenal job. I couldn’t have asked any more of her – this was her best game of the year.”
Vandervest also had a single in her four trips to the plate.
De Pere got RBI singles by Alexandra Westphal, Natalie Cerrato and Makayla Alexander in the first two innings to jump out to its four-run lead.
The Pirates sent nine batters to the plate in the marathon third, collecting five hits and scoring their four runs with the help of a two-out De Pere error.
The Redbirds would need all five runs they scored in the top of the seventh to secure the victory.
Brianna Patz and Aubrie Thompson had RBI singles to score two runs before Rachel Kerkhoff’s pop fly in the infield got caught in the wind and ended up in shallow right field, scoring two more.
De Pere’s Addisyn Pennings had two walks and two hits, while Cerrato also had two hits.
Smentana had two hits and two RBI for Bay Port, and Karigann Wood added two hits.
De Pere: 220 110 5 – 11 12 5
Bay Port: 014 000 5 – 10 13 6