The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


July 6, 2012

Marquette sidelines Preston with 1 swing and a no-hitter

PRESTON — They had played each other four times this season. Each team won twice, and they averaged 16 runs a game.

But Marquette Catholic and Preston lived up to the cliche that you can disregard regular-season results once you get to the postseason.

One swing of the bat made the difference on the scoreboard Thursday night. Marquette scored the game’s lone runs on a home run by Blake Banowetz, and Mohawks pitcher Danielle Bender held Preston hitless in a 2-0 win in the quarterfinals of the Iowa Class 1A Region 4 softball tournament.

“You never know what is going to happen in tournament play,” said coach Sarah Manning, whose team bowed out with a 15-21 record after making consecutive trips the state tournament the past two years.

“Coach always tells us to just find a way, and we definitely found a way,” Bender said.

“I was (surprised),” Banowetz said of the low score. “I knew it would be a close game, but I didn’t think that (one swing would be all the offense), no — and the pitching ... .”

The pitching was strong for both teams, which Bender admitted was a bit of a surprise.

“They’ve always hit off me pretty well,” she said. “I knew I had to do it for the team. I didn’t even know I had a no-hitter until Coach told me after the game.”

The game ended with catcher Bella Berthel throwing out Sabrina Lippens at first base after Bender’s strikeout pitch was in the dirt. Then it was time for the Mohawks to mob Bender near the third-base dugout and celebrate the no-hitter.

“There’s nothing better than that,” Bender said.

Preston’s Cassie Aldis was nearly Bender’s equal in the pitchers circle. She allowed just four hits and two walks. Unfortunately for her, one hit made the difference.

Using a bat borrowed from Rod Medinger, whose daughter A.J. has hit seven home runs for Dubuque Senior this season, Banowetz rocketed a pitch down the left-field line after Berthel led off the bottom of the second inning with a single.

“I thought she had me all figured out,” said Bano-wetz, who was 3 for 11 against Preston pitching during the regular season. “Cassie has pitched against me many times. Usually she has me.”

Aldis wasn’t disappointed with the pitch, either.

“She really reached out and grabbed the ball,” Aldis said.

“It was low, an offspeed pitch,” Banowetz said. “It hit the pole pretty much. I was running to first, saying, Please stay fair.’ ”

Bender said: “I knew she had it. Usually she gets four or five of those foul before she hits it.”

Banowetz also made a key defensive play in the top half of the inning. Her diving stop in the hole prevented Brooke Krogman from getting a one-out single.

“(Bender) knows she has the defense behind her,” Banowetz said. “All I can say is I love third base. I don’t like it when stuff gets by me.”

Bender’s defense came through on a couple of other tough plays.

One play before Banowetz’s stop, first baseman Caroline Herrig made an over-the-shoulder catch on Ryleigh Keeney’s foul popup near the first-base dugout. An inning later, center fielder Sarah Lampe raced in to catch a liner off the bat of Lizzie Meier for the third out.

For the most part, though, Bender was in control.

“Everything was pretty much working for me; my cutter worked well,” she said.

“Danielle pitched really well,” Aldis said. “That’s the best I’ve seen her pitch. We struggled to even get a bat on the ball sometimes.”

Hitting was an issue for Preston down the stretch. The Trojans went 2-12 after a conference sweep of Marquette on June 18 and batted just .203 during that time. Take away an 11-for-29 effort in an 11-10 loss to the Mohawks on June 23 and the average dipped to .186.

“We’ve been in a team slump,” Manning said. “All we did all week was hit, hit, hit, and we didn’t come out of it. It makes it tough that we weren’t hitting the ball.”

Bender issued four walks while striking out eight. Three of the walks led off innings, as did Marquette’s lone error, a grounder to second baseman Anna Ambrosy.

“There definitely was a lot of pressure, but I know I have the defense behind me,” Bender said. “I just kept thinking it was a nothing-nothing game. I was ready for them to come back.”

But the Trojans never could sustain a rally.

“You’ve got to score runs,” Manning said.

There were none out there for the Trojans on Thursday, though, giving Marquette a win it has longed for.

“Especially since they’ve always beaten us in districts,” Bender said.

Next, the Mohawks (18-16) head to Lisbon for a 7 p.m. semifinal vs. Lone Tree today. Lone Tree beat Lisbon 6-4 on Thursday.


Preston    000    000    0    —    0    0    1

Marquette    020    000    x    —    0    4    1

Cassie Aldis (6 ip, 4 h, 2 r, 2 er, 2 bb, 1 so) and Emily Rittmer; Danielle Bender (7 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 4 bb, 7 so) and Bella Berthel. HR — Marquette (Blake Banowetz). RBIs — Marquette (Banowetz 2).


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