PRESTON — Northeast coach Travis Eversmeyer couldn’t have asked for more out of his ace Wednesday night. Maddison Daniels was on her 16th inning, having allowed only five runs in a two-game set with Preston. Game 2 carried into extra innings, and by the ninth inning, Daniels had sent down 10 straight batters.
Eversmeyer said he knew he could ride Daniels to the end.
“She threw lights out again. We’re going to ride that arm as far as we can go,” he said. “I kept asking her throughout the game, ‘Are you good to go?’ She wants the ball in her hand, and we have confidence in her ability.”
Yet, Preston found its bats when it counted. Leading off a 2-2 ninth inning, Brooke Krogman singled up the middle, and her Trojans teammates moved her into scoring position. A sacrifice fly by Larissa Ruchotzke scored Krogman, and Preston followed with a 1-2-3 bottom half to close out a sweep of their rival Rebels, 3-2 after a 3-0 win in Game 1.
Preston pitcher Lizzie Meier earned two wins in 11 shutout innings between both games. She even helped her cause in Game 1 going 3-for-3 at the plate with a fifth-inning, two-run double that wound up the difference maker.
“We knew that we had to step up and we did,” Meier said. “It’s a pretty big rivalry, and we knew they were a really good team. We knew we had to play our best to beat our rival.”
Daniels, meanwhile, allowed only three runs in each game. It was enough for a Trojans team that didn’t falter defensively. Eversmeyer said the key was Northeast’s inability to manufacture runs; two runs through 16 innings won’t cut it against good competition.
“Granted, they threw great games ... but we got to be able to hit the ball better than we did and put the ball in play,” he said. “Our confidence is way down at the plate for no reason. These kids can hit the ball, and they just have to believe it.”
Preston coach Tim Zeimet saw the game like a chess match between heated rivals. The Trojans’ power won out over the Rebels’ speed.
“I’m trying to out-do what he does,” Zeimet said. “I have to bunt and move runners. I don’t have the speed, so I hope for the timely hits. That’s the way my game will be all year long.”
On the pitching side, he said: “Meier brings the power and (Cassie) Aldis brings the finesse. It’s a nice little combination, and I’m going to use it all year long.”
Without question, the games featured a fair share of drama. In the opener, Northeast found itself in several jams with Preston runners in scoring position. Rebels catcher Baylie Parson stonewalled Preston’s Ryleigh Keeney at the plate to save a run in the third inning after an on-the-money throw from center fielder Morgan McAleer.
Keeney paid the Rebels back with a spectacular diving catch from shortstop in the sixth, stopping a runner from scoring on third and ending the inning. The play was vehemently disputed by Eversmeyer; Keeney had bobbled the ball and Eversmeyer questioned if she dropped it on her way to the ground.
The call stood, and it was the last time a Northeast runner was in scoring position in Game 1.
In Game 2, Northeast responded to a 2-0 deficit in the fifth with RBIs from Aleenah Marcucci and Rylee Dickey to tie the game. Daniels began her tear on the mound, countered by Meier in the opposite dugout. Four innings of shutout softball ensued, with Preston finally capitalizing in the ninth.
It was a long night for Daniels, but she said she felt good despite the losses.
“I’ve pitched both games of a doubleheader a lot, but I don’t think I’ve ever gone that long,” Daniels said. “(The arm’s) actually good, surprisingly.”
The losses dropped Northeast to 2-3 (0-2 in the Big East). The team will play another two-game set tonight at Calamus-Wheatland with the first pitch at 5 p.m. Meanwhile, Preston travels to a doubleheader at Midland, also at 5 p.m.
PRESTON 3, NORTHEAST 0
Northeast 000 000 0 — 0 2 1
Preston 000 030 X — 3 5 1
Maddison Daniels (6 ip, 5 h, 3 r, 3 er, 5 bb, 1 so) and Baylie Parson; Lizzie Meier (7 ip, 2 h, 2 bb, 4 so) and Emily Rittmer. Multiple hits — Preston (Meier 3). 2B — Northeast (Addie Oberman), Preston (Meier). RBIs — Preston (Meier 2).
PRESTON 3, NORTHEAST 2
Preston 000 110 001 — 3 12 3
Northeast 000 020 000 — 2 5 2
Maddison Daniels (9 ip, 12 h, 3 r, 3 er, 5 so) and Baylie Parson; Cassie Aldis (5 ip, 3 h, 2 r, 1 er, 1 bb, 1 so), Lizzie Meier (4 ip, 2 h, 1 bb, 2 so) and Emily Rittmer. Multiple hits — Northeast (Aleenah Marcucci 3), Preston (Cassie Aldis 3, Brooke Wagner 2, Brooke Krogman 2). 2B — Northeast (Brittany Stoll). 3B — Northeast (Aleenah Marcucci). RBI — Northeast (Marcucci, Rylee Dickey), Preston (Ryleigh Keeney, Larissa Ruchotzke, Adrianna Fier).