By Nate Thompson
EGELSTON TOWNSHIP – Trista Stingle has been coaching softball at Reeths-Puffer for 11 seasons, and even she hasn’t been involved in a game like her Rockets experienced on Thursday at Oakridge High School.
The non-conference foes were deadlocked in a 3-3 tie through 10 innings (a high school regulation game is seven innings) in the opener of their doubleheader. That forced the game into an international tie-breaker rule where each team started with a runner at second base.
The Rockets, now 4-2 on the season, made the most of the situation. They added a second base runner on a walk, then catcher Brooklynn Duffey plated both with a two-run double in the top of the 11th.
The host Eagles got one back in the bottom of the 11th, but couldn’t extend the marathon game any longer, and the Rockets escaped with a 5-4 win.
Reeths-Puffer junior pitcher MaKayla Thompson sealed the deal by recording a strikeout for the game’s final out – her remarkable 25th of the game.
“I’ve never coached in a game that went 11 innings and had the international tie-breaker rule enforced,” Stingle said. “I’m feeling thankful we could be a part of a game like this, because that helps us if that happens late in the season or in the state tournament. It’s awesome that we could experience something like this.”
Stingle actually took Thompson out of the game and inserted her into left field in the sixth, replacing her just for one inning with Ashlyn Gonzalez.
“We just wanted to mix it up a little bit,” Stingle said. “Ashlyn throws at a much different speed, but still is able to hit great spots, so we thought that would keep (Oakridge) off balance a little bit.”
Thompson, a lefty, was still her dominant self once she was re-inserted into the pitching circle. She said her arm felt fine, even after reaching the 11th inning.
“My arm felt great,” she said. “It just seemed everything was going great today.”
Her 25 strikeouts were an easy career high. It overshadowed a complete game effort by Oakridge ace Kayla Fessenden, who pitched all 11 innings and fanned 18. She allowed three runs to the Rockets in the first inning, and then none again until the deciding 11th.
“We struggled to stay back on her pitches,” Stingle said about Fessenden. “She did a great job of mixing speeds.”
In Game 2, the Rockets’ hitters woke up, pounding their way to a 9-5 victory in a game that was called after five innings.
Reeths-Puffer socked a pair of over-the-fence home runs off Eagles’ pitcher Brie Pastor – a solo shot by Jayla Olson in the first, and a two-run blast by Makenna Johnson in the fourth. The fourth was a big inning for the Rockets, who scored four on four hits to give them the deciding cushion on the scoreboard.
Oakridge went 1-2-3 in their last at-bats in the top of the fifth against Rockets’ relief pitcher Payleigh Primmer.
The Eagles scored three in the first on RBI hits from Fessenden and Kylee Upson. But Reeths-Puffer responded with three runs of their own in the bottom half of the first.
Oakridge tied the game at 5-5 on a two-run homer by Pastor in the top of the fourth, but the Rockets roared back to earn the sweep.