Preston softball coach Tim Zeimet has been urging his players to take chances and not hold back.
He finally saw them do it Wednesday night, and the Trojans turned some momentum-changing plays in the field that led to a 7-5 victory against Central City in a Class 1A Region 4 quarterfinal game.
“I’ve been telling the girls, make the plays, go ahead and throw it. Don’t hold back,” Zeimet said, referring to two plays where the Trojans erased Wildcats runners at third base. “If a mistake happens, it happens, but you can’t be afraid to make a mistake. If you’re afraid to make a mistake, you’ll never make that play.”
The win gives Preston (15-15) a shot at revenge against Marquette Catholic on Friday in Bellevue. The Mohawks ousted Preston from postseason play last year in a 1-0 game.
The confidence from making those plays Wednesday might be just what the Trojans have needed. They were ranked in Class 1A early in the season but have struggled since losing senior team leader Cassie Aldis to injury at midyear.
“Mentally, I think we thought that losing Cassie — she was our leadoff batter, and she was a big leader on our team — mentally, we just kind of lost it,” said senior left fielder Larissa Ruchotzke, who had three hits to lead Preston’s offense. Ruchotzke was right in the middle of all of Preston’s scoring innings, but the Trojans’ defense was the real key Wednesday.
It made a difference right away.
Jackie Applehans led off the game with a double for Central City (16-26). A sacrifice bunt moved pinch-runner Jessica Etten, then Ashley Kerslake laid down another bunt. Preston third baseman Mallory Kilburg raced in to field the ball, faked going to first trying to draw Etten down the line. Instead of throwing to first, Kilburg shoveled the ball to catcher Emily Rittmer, who fired it to shortstop Ryleigh Keeney covering third base. The throw beat Etten back, and suddenly there were two outs and no longer the runner on third.
“We’ve been working on that the last month, and it finally paid off,” Zeimet said. “We executed it.
“It’s confidence in Mal Kilburg to check, make that fake, to sell it, that you’re going to first. ... We’ve had that happen a couple, three other times, she just didn’t have the courage to throw it to the covering shortstop.”
Although she didn’t turn and throw, the result was the same.
“We worked on it in practice a lot and have never really done it in a game, so why not pull it out now?” Kilburg said. “I was just feeling it. It gets us all pumped up.”
Preston’s offense got going after Kilburg was robbed of a hit when Wildcats shortstop Ashley Iehl nabbed her line drive. Ruchotzke followed with a single up the middle. Adrianna Fier was hit by a pitch, and Brooke Wagner hit a bunt single to load the bases. Markell Stoecken drove in the first run with a sacrifice fly, another scored when losing pitcher Kailey Fleming couldn’t handle a popup and the Trojans made it 3-0 when Keeney beat the throw to first for a run-scoring infield hit.
Central City came back with two runs in the top of the third, but Preston pitcher Lizzie Meier recorded a strikeout with runners on second and third to prevent more damage.
Back on offense, the Trojans chalked up another three-run inning.
“I think it really got our momentum going,” Ruchotzke said. “I was very pumped up, very excited, and I think that helped the other girls see that all you need is one hit and that can really get things going.
Kilburg got the third inning started with a one-out double to left field, and Ruchotzke followed with a line-drive triple into the right-field corner.
“I kind of told myself that all we needed was a base hit, stay confident, stay calm,” Ruchotzke said. “I just knew we needed to get a hit. I had seen that it had gone down the line and I knew that generally that’s a good spot to get to three, but also coach was telling me to try to get there, so I put it all on him. Many times he’s told us in practice that if he tells us to go and we are out it’s his fault and he won’t yell at us, so I trusted him and I just went for it.”
Ruchotzke scored on Fier’s groundout, then Preston made it 6-2 when Wagner hit an infield single, stole second base and scored on an error.
“More runs give us more insurance,” Fier said. “They can still get runs, but they need to get a lot more.”
They got more runs, too, and might have erased Preston’s lead if not for another key defensive play at third base.
The Wildcats were rolling in the sixth inning. A walk and four straight singles cut the gap to 6-5, and they had runners on the corners with no outs.
With Applehans at the plate, Central City tried to work a delayed double steal. It backfired when Preston threw behind Katelin Powers at third, and Kilburg tagged her out.
“It could have been called either way,” Kilburg said. “I don’t know; it was close.”
“Zeimet said: “It was another momentum changer. They had all the momentum at that point. You could tell that the air left their lungs. They knew they blew it.”
The rally died, as Applehans struck out and Iehl hit a grounder back to Meier to end the inning.
Preston carried over the momentum on offense. Kilburg beat out an infield single with two outs to keep the inning going, then Ruchotzke was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
“I just go all out,” Kilburg said. “There’s no sense in not giving it your all. It could have been our last game.”
Fier then went to the plate with no intention to swing until she had taken a strike. She never got one, walking on four pitches.
“Tim always tells us to wait for one (strike), then we know where it is and can get the second one,” Fier said.
With the win in hand, the Trojans turned their thoughts to Marquette Catholic, which beat Springville 10-6 on Wednesday.
The Trojans will face Marquette Catholic in Friday’s 7 p.m. semifinal game in Bellevue. The Mohawks, hoping to make a return trip to the state tournament, defeated Preston three times during the regular season.
“They knocked us out in previous sports, so it would be nice to beat Marquette,” Kilburg said.
The Trojans should go into the game with more confidence now.
PRESTON 7, CENTRAL CITY 5
Central City 002 003 0 — 5 8 2
Preston 033 001 x — 7 11 1
Kailey Fleming (6 ip, 11 h, 7 r, 4 er, 1 bb, 2 so) and Sam Nielsen; Lizzie Meier (7 ip, 8 h, 5 r, 5 er, 3 bb, 10 so) and Emily Rittmer. Multiple hits — Central City (Kaetlin Powers 2); Preston (Larissa Ruchotzke 3, Brooke Wagner 2, Ryleigh Keeney 2, Mallory Kilburg 2). 2B — Central City (Jackie Applehans); Preston (Kilburg, Meier). 3B — Preston (Ruchotzke). RBIs — Central City (Ashley Iehl, Nielsen, Alexis Starry, Powers, Fleming); Preston (Markell Stoecken, Keeney, Ruchotzke, Adrianna Fier 2).
Preston softball coach Tim Zeimet has been urging his players to take chances and not hold back.
- Top News
- Harden's success extends to studies Herald Staff Report CLINTON -- When Nate Harden qualified for the Iowa high school state swimming meet this winter, he became just the second Clinton High School athlete to compete at a state postseason event in four different sports. But, his succe
- Man sentenced in officer assault CLINTON -- A Clinton man will serve as much as 15 years in prison for assaulting a correctional officer in the Clinton County jail. District Court Judge Joel Barrows sentenced James M. Douglas to no more than 15 years for assault, without the intent
- Local Dems, GOP prepare conventions CLINTON -- It may be early in the election year, but organizers say Saturday's Democratic and Republican conventions in Clinton County serve as pivotal kickoffs for races to come. Before county, state and federal candidates can be chosen, local parti
- Waning winter weather CLINTON -- Spring is on its way and while most Clinton residents are ready to see the flowers bloom, it could mean some major changes to the region's ecosystem. Temperatures are expected to rise in the next few months and with that rise the Mighty Mi
- Judge accepts guilty plea in abuse case CLINTON -- A District Court Judge accepted the guilty plea of a Calamus woman charged with denying medical care to her 6-week-old baby girl, resulting in bodily injury. Danielle Bunce, 23, was charged in connection with a incident occurring between F
- Fulton city council at odds over video gaming revenue FULTON, Ill. Fulton City officials have found a way to utilize revenues generated by the new Illinois Video Gaming Act, but not everyone on the Fulton City Council agrees with the new suggestion. At a council meeting Monday, Alderman Randy Boonstra
- Budget approved, but not without disagreement CAMANCHE -- After a series of debates and disagreements, the Camanche City Council has approved a final budget for the fiscal year ending in 2015 -- but still could not reach a decision unanimously. During a City Council meeting Tuesday, councilmen B
- Salt supply dwindles CLINTON For evidence of a harsh Gateway winter, look no further than the city's salt stash. The problem isn't unique to Clinton, either, according to Tom Krogman, city public works director. "We're getting down there," Krogman said, Wednesday, follo
VIDEO: A panoramic view from atop One World Trade Center
NBC's Today Show aired footage from a year-long project by TIME magazine to capture a 360-degree moving image from atop One World Trade Center, the 1,776-foot structure in New York City that is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.
Staples to close 225 stores as online competition hurts sales
Staples Inc., the largest U.S. office-supplies chain, will close as many as 12 percent of its North American stores and cut as much as $500 million in costs as online competition continues to hurt sales.
- More Top News Headlines