By Jon Gremmels Herald Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — CAMANCHE — With a shot at the Big East Conference softball title still within reach and a matchup with the league leaders awaiting them next week, the Camanche Indians are determined to have a say in what happens in the conference’s final season.
The Indians improved to 9-1 in the Big East on Thursday with a 10-6, 10-3 sweep of Preston, setting the stage for a home doubleheader Monday against No. 12 (Class 1A) Marquette Catholic, which leads the Big East standings with an 11-1 record.
“We knew coming in we were going to play a good team, even though they lost a key player,” Camanche coach Erin Schlotfeldt said. “We still can make a run at the conference championship, and we’re starting to pull everything together.”
It was the fourth consecutive conference sweep for the Indians (17-8) and their 10th win in the past 12 games overall.
“I’m very happy with the way things are going,” said Indians junior second baseman Kylie Vogel, who had five hits and smacked a two-run double in each game. “With every game, I think we’re improving.”
The losses eliminated Preston (14-3, 9-5) from the conference race. The Trojans, who have been ranked as high as No. 13 in Class 1A, have lost 11 of 14 games and dropped out of the rankings this week. They are 7-10 without senior pitcher-second baseman Cassie Aldis, who suffered a season-ending broken hand.
“We should not be playing like this, whether she is here or not,” Preston coach Tim Zeimet said, referring to Aldis’s absence. “We’re not making plays we should.
“We just don’t have anybody willing to take charge. We’re looking for someone to be a leader. We have good-enough players.”
The Trojans’ problems began in the first game after they scored four times in the top of the third inning. Emily Rittmer had the big hit, a two-run triple that broke a scoreless tie.
But, as quickly as they took the lead, they lost it, as Camanche roared back with seven runs in the bottom half of the inning.
“I think it shows we have a lot of heart,” Vogel said. “Obviously, we didn’t come out the best in the field (an error was responsible for the fourth Preston run), but we made up for it. We hit the ball really well.”
Winning pitcher Morgan Mussmann led off with a double, and the next seven batters reached base before Preston recorded an out. It’s not as if there weren’t opportunities for outs, though.
“We just can’t make mistakes,” Zeimet said. “We can beat anybody, but if we don’t bring our ‘A’ game, we can’t beat anybody.”
Maddie Parker followed Mussmann with a single that put runners on the corners. She stole second, and Rittmer’s throw was off target, allowing courtesy runner Addison McDanel to score and Parker to advance to third. Preston pitcher Lizzie Meier then struck out Jordan Goldbeck, but the strikeout pitch was wild, and Goldbeck was able to make it all the way to second base.
A single by Allie Lefebure scored Parker, then Goldbeck came in on Lindsey Grams’ bunt single, making it 4-3. Vogel then delivered the big hit, a two-run double that put the Indians ahead 5-4.
“I was looking to come up with a hit,” Vogel said. “She had been throwing me consistently changeups all night, and she threw one where I like to hit.”
Jordan Nissen made it to second on a fielder’s choice when the Trojans got Vogel in a rundown between second and third, but Vogel slipped past third baseman Mallory Kilburg’s tag attempt and reached third. The last two runs scored on a single by Julia Moore and a sacrifice fly by Sydney Grell, giving the Indians a 7-4 lead that they never lost.
“I always tell the girls that hitting is contagious, and they proved that,” Schlotfeldt said. “We’re doing a better job of scoring our baserunners.”
Rittmer made things interesting with a home run over the “210” sign in center field to cut the gap to 8-6 in the fifth, but the Indians sealed the win with two runs in the bottom of the sixth.
A big third inning was the key for Camanche in the second game, too. Leading 1-0, they sent 10 batters to the plate and scored six times.
The Indians loaded the bases on a walk, a hit batter and a bunt single by Lefebure, whose fielder’s choice scored the first run in the first inning. A groundout by Grell and a single by winning pitcher Kelsey Sexton brought in the first two runs, but the biggest hits were a pair of two-out, two-run doubles by Goldbeck and Vogel.
“Those were two very key hits,” Vogel said.
They were the difference between a 7-0 lead and a 3-0 lead, and that proved big in the next half inning when Larissa Ruchotzke delivered a two-out, two-run single with the bases loaded for the Trojans. She also drove in Preston’s final run with a seventh-inning two-out single that was part of a 3-for-4 game.
Camanche’s other runs came when Nissen hit an RBI triple and scored on an error on the play in the fifth and on a groundout by Moore in the top of the seventh.
CAMANCHE 10, PRESTON 6
Preston 004 020 0 — 6 4 1
Camanche 007 102 x — 10 13 2
Lizzie Meier (6 ip, 13 h, 10 r, 10 er, 1 bb, 6 so) and Emily Rittmer; Morgan Mussmann (7 ip, 4 h, 6 r, 5 er, 4 bb, 4 so) and Jordan Goldbeck. Multiple hits — Preston (Rittmer 3); Camanche (Lindsey Grams 3, Kylie Vogel 3, Allie Lefebure 2). 2B — Camanche (Mussmann, Vogel). 3B — Preston (Rittmer). HR — Preston (Rittmer). RBIs — Preston (Rittmer 4, Meier, Mallory Kilburg); Camanche (Lefebure, Grams 2, Vogel 2, Julia Moore, Sydney Grell, Jordan Nissen).
CAMANCHE 10, PRESTON 3
Camanche 106 020 1 — 10 14 1
Preston 002 000 1 — 3 10 2
Kelsey Sexton (7 ip, 10 h, 3 r, 3 er, 3 bb, 5 so) and Goldbeck; Meier (5 ip, 11 h, 9 r, 8 er, 3 bb, 3 so), Adrienne Tebbe (2 ip, 3 h, 1 r, 1 er, 1 so) and Rittmer. Multiple hits — Camanche (Grams 3, Vogel 2, Nissen 3, Grell 2); Preston (Meier 2, Kilburg 2, Ruchotzke 3). 2B — Camanche (Goldbeck, Vogel, Grell, Nissen). 3B — Camanche (Nissen). RBIs — Camanche (Lefebure, Grell, Sexton, Goldbeck 2, Vogel 2, Nissen, Moore).