By Jon Gremmels Herald Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — PROPHETSTOWN, Ill. -- When Kylie Ackerman delivered a two-run single in the bottom of the fifth inning, it appeared that Erie/Prophetstown had just what it needed to beat Morrison for the second Saturday in a row.
Playing on their home field a week after winning at Morrison, the Panthers had a chance to seize control of the Three Rivers Conference standings with a two-run lead in the battle of 20-win teams.
But the Fillies, who have made it a habit of sitting atop the conference standings in recent years, kept the title in their sight by rallying for a 6-4 softball victory.
“We really wanted this game,” said Allie Wiersema, who drove in the go-ahead run for Morrison.
“This means so much to us,” fellow senior Shannon Finneran said. “Losing to them the first time made us want it more the second.”
Ackerman had shut down the Morrison bats the previous week, so the Fillies spent a lot of time at the plate preparing for the rematch.
“We’ve been working on hitting the past couple of nights, and it made a big difference,” Morrison coach Tammy Deter said.
The Fillies (21-2) doubled their hit total from a week earlier, outhitting E/P 8-6.
“We did a lot of hitting (this week in practice),” Finneran said. “We focused on her outside pitch.”
Lauren Rice, the winning pitcher, started the Morrison comeback with a leadoff single in the sixth.
“I think after Kylie got the hit off me (in the previous inning), I knew I had to come back,” said Rice, a freshman who added an insurance run in the seventh with a run-scoring single after catcher Chelsea Eads doubled.
Lauren Pannier reached when Alicia Stout couldn’t handle Pannier’s line drive down the right-field line. A single by Emma Sitzmore loaded the bases, then Morrison pulled within 4-3 on a hard grounder by Rachel Davis.
The Fillies pulled even when Finneran, a right-handed batter, hit the ball to the right side for an RBI groundout, and Wiersema followed with a two-out single to left-center that brought in the go-ahead run.
“We knew we had to get it going and got the bats going,” Wiersema said. “You can’t give up (when you get behind). You’ve got to think positively and think you can do anything.”
Rice retired the Fillies (20-3) in order in the bottom of the sixth, but the Panthers put a runner on base in the seventh with a leadoff walk by Kaeli Kovarik and got the tying run on when Rice hit Emily Cox with a two-strike pitch with two outs. But, Rice ended it when she got Ackerman to ground out.
“It’s a big relief,” Rice said of pitching with the lead and then getting the insurance run. “You know you’re up. There’s still pressure, but you’re more relaxed.”
The teams traded two-run innings early before the Panthers went ahead in the fifth. Ackerman’s single scored Kovarik, who led off with a walk, and Savannah Mettler, who was hit by a pitch with one out.
“We definitely put up a good fight,” Ackerman said. “We had good offense, but Morrison has good offense, too. We came back with out bats, too. I’’m proud we put up a fight.”
MORRISON 6, ERIE/PROPHETSTOWN 4
Morrison 200 003 1 -- 6 8 2
Erie/P’town 020 020 0 -- 4 6 2
Allie Wiersema (3 ip, 5 h, 2 r, 1 er, 1 bb, 1 so), Lauren Rice (4 ip, 1 h, 2 r, 0 er, 3 bb, 6 so) and Chelsea Eads; Kylie Ackerman (7 ip, 8 h, 6 r, 4 er, 3 bb, 1 so). Multiple hits -- Morrison (Rice 2); E/P (Emily Cox 2). 2B -- Morrison (Rachel Davis, Eads); E/P (Cox, Clare Kramer). RBIs -- Morrison (Jaden Workman, Eads, Davis, Shannon Finneran, Wiersema, Rice); E/P (Laykin Miner, Ackerman 2).