NEW ULM - Last week was a tiring one for the Minnesota Valley Lutheran softball team.
The Chargers ended a four-game week with a grueling loss in arctic conditions on Friday against Nicollet, then topped it all off with prom on the weekend.
In Monday's game against Comfrey/Cedar Mountain, MVL did exactly what it needed to do to bounce back from such a draining week, earning a 6-0 win against the Rockets behind a four-hit shutout by pitcher Carlie Maasz.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Minnesota Valley Lutheran’s Carlie Maasz drives a pitch for a base hit during Chargers’ game against Comfrey/Cedar Mountain Monday at MVL.
For more photos of this event go to cu.nujournal.com
"It was nice to come back after a long weekend - we had prom, so we weren't really in the mood to play," Maasz said. "But it was nice to come back - it was not just me, but the whole defense. I was really happy with the way (catcher Charlotte Pfingsten) called the game, that just made it easier for me."
The bulk of the contest featured a pitcher's duel between Maasz (seven innings pitched, four hits, no walks, seven strikeouts) and C/CM pitcher Amanda Hillesheim (six innings pitched, seven hits, four earned runs, one walk, four strikeouts), but a five-run fifth inning by the Chargers changed the nature of the game.
MVL took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on an RBI single by Maasz (2-for-3), but Hillesheim allowed only one hit over the next three innings.
Maasz matched Hillesheim by allowing only one hit during that same span, facing the minimum number of batters over the stretch after she snared a liner off of the bat of Clara Burkman and doubled up Catarina Gronau (2-for-3) at first base to end the fourth inning.
Rachael Kuck began the Chargers' fifth-inning rally by reaching base on an error, after which a walk to Jeanna Birr and a single by Tracy Flygare loaded the bases.
Pfingsten (2-for-3, two runs, two RBI, stolen base) followed with a two-run double and two batters later Emily Wessel (1-for-2, run, two RBI, stolen base) drove in another two runs with a single to make the score 5-0.
Wessel then stole second, advanced to third by tagging up on a flyout and scored on a single by Keri Fischer to round out the game's scoring.
"We just made some very simple fielding errors," C/CM head coach Jamie Berner said. "We played a pretty solid defense, but there were a few that kind of got away from us, and that led to the few extra runs that they had."
MVL's five-run inning was the only blemish on what was otherwise a strong effort by Hillesheim, who consistently drew weak contact and earned some key strikeouts, including ending the fourth inning with two straight strikeouts after the first two batters in the inning reached safely.
"She pitched very well," Berner said. "She moved the ball, she was pitching them in the strike zone and the other team seemed to struggle for quite a while finding a rhythm and being able to hit her. Just take away those errors and it would be a little closer game than it was."
After stranding 12 runners in Friday's loss to Nicollet, MVL left only three runners on base against the Rockets on Monday.
"We got the hits when we needed to today, just enough to edge out a win here," MVL head coach Dave Biedenbender said. "I think the other key just was Carlie pitched a great game - any time you pitch a shutout, that's good softball. Fortunately we scored enough runs for her to win the game."
Apart from Gronau, the only other Rockets to reach base against Maasz were Brianna Lund (1-for-3) and Katelyn Christensen (1-for-3).
"They have a very good pitcher, and so it made it hard for us to be able to hit her," Berner said. "She's got a great change up between her fast pitch and her change that makes it really difficult to adapt to, and the girls kind of struggled with that."
Maasz mentioned that her team's alert play also contributed heavily to the victory.
"I think just heads-up plays in the field and at bat," Maasz said. "We just knew where each other were and we really talked to each other."
C/CM will look to rebound when it hosts a tough Wabasso squad on Thursday for a doubleheader, with the first game scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m.
MVL will look to stay hot when it travels to play a doubleheader at Sleepy Eye on Thursday.
"Hopefully we gained a little confidence today, we got a win, and we'll be going into Sleepy Eye for a doubleheader Thursday," Biedenbender said. "It'll be a couple tough games, but I like our chances in the games."