Saturday, November 22, 2014

Babes defend as fastball champs

The Red Gut Babes took the scenic route back to the top of the mountain.
That extra travel made reaching their destination extra special.

A three-run fourth inning broke open a close contest and carried the Babes to a 10-5 victory over the Manitou Blaze in the second-and-deciding game of the Rainy River District Women’s Fastball League final last Wednesday at VanJura.
It also clinched Red Gut’s second-straight title.
“It means a lot to win it this way,” said Tracy Morningstar, who moved from her regular spot on the mound to third base for both games of the final in favour of Dryden-area import Lynn Windego.
“It was tougher to win it the second time, 100 percent,” she added.
“Our defence really picked it up at the end of the year.”
The top-ranked Babes lost 9-7 to the fourth-seeded Blaze earlier in the playoffs. That forced Red Gut to fight through the bottom half of the draw to get back to the final of the double-elimination playoffs.
With three outs separating them from a playoff exit, the Babes rallied for three runs in their last at-bat to nip Northwest Bay 9-8 in the semi-final.
That still meant Red Gut needed to beat Manitou twice in the final while one Blaze victory would sew up the title for the surprising expansion team that had only three veteran ballplayers on the roster starting this season.
Red Gut rolled to a 15-4 win in Game 1 in Manitou last Monday (Aug. 25), but found a sturdier Blaze team awaiting them in Game 2.
Trailing 6-2 after three innings, Manitou sprung to life in the top of the fourth after Windego had fanned the first two batters.
Janelle Andy sprinted into second with a double to shallow centrefield before Erin Oltsher brought her in by ripping an RBI triple to the gap in right-centre.
When the throw to third went well over Morningstar’s head and into the Blaze dugout, Oltsher was awarded home by umpire Kevin Gemmell to pull Manitou to within 6-4.
But in the bottom half of the inning, Blaze pitcher Karma Andy walked Windego to start what would be a pivotal encounter with the heart of the Babes’ lineup.
Morningstar jumped all over the first pitch she saw and pounded a double to left that was mere feet from leaving the yard to plate Windego.
“If we didn’t pick it up at that point, it could have been a whole different game,” admitted Morningstar.
“That was on my mind when I went up to the plate.”
Then with one out, Micaela Jack got hold of a fastball and launched it deep to left for an RBI triple to bring in Morningstar.
Alyssa Windego followed with a pop-up to shallow right that shortstop Janelle Andy and second baseman Crystal Hyatt failed to communicate on as to who was making the catch—letting the ball drop and Jack to touch home for a 9-4 lead.
In the fifth, Lynn Windego singled with two out and scored during a bizarre sequence of events.
Janelle Andy dropped Morningstar’s pop-up, then whizzed a wild throw past first base for another error.
The throw home was not in time to get Windego and also got away from Blaze catcher Ashley Barker.
Upon tracking the ball down, Barker threw the ball to third—causing Morningstar to make a beeline for what seemed to be an unguarded home plate.
But Karma Andy raced over from the mound to take the throw and apply the tag to end the inning.
The Manitou pitcher then become a sprinter in the seventh—coming all the way around to score when Babes’ catcher Kayla Windigo’s pick-off throw on Andy’s steal of second flew into centrefield.
It was the 16-year-old Blaze hurler’s arm that caught Morningstar’s attention, however.
“Down the road, she’s going to be even 100 percent faster and when she adds more movement to her ball, she’s going to be really hard to hit,” lauded Morningstar.
She also said the possibility of a “three-peat” next season is on her mind, though she knows it won’t be a simple task.
“There’s a lot of young teams that are learning quickly and it’s anyone’s game next year,” she remarked.
“That’s what’s so great about this league,” Morningstar added. “I think there could be as many as six teams that could be contenders next season.
“But I feel like this team is really coming together,” she noted.
“We’re getting used to each other’s game and we’re getting more set in certain positions.”

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