October 4, 2012

Lady Panthers keep surprising run going

Aaron Colen, Sports Editor,
The Express-Star


Amber-Pocasset wasn't even supposed to be at Hall of Fame stadium on Thursday. They should have lost in Fletcher during regionals, based on rankings.

But you wouldn't know that by watching the Panthers play, as they beat No. 2 Rattan in the first round of the state tournament, 4-1 on Thursday afternoon.

"We aren't even supposed to be here," head coach Steve Pelzer said. "We beat the No. 4 team, just now beat the No. 2 team. These girls just want to play."

The Lady Panthers got to the state tournament by beating No. 4 Fletcher on the Lady Wildcats' own field twice to win the regional championship.

During the game against Rattan, the Amber-Pocasset players looked loose and confident, and it paid off on the field.

The Lady Panthers scored the first runs of the game in the third inning, when starting pitcher Maci Brush hit a two-run double that drove home Laci Friesen and Ashtin Green, who both reached base on singles.

"I felt like early if we could get a lead, it really helps," Pelzer said. "They're a great ball club. They do a really good job and they're fundamentally sound."

The Lady Rams responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the third inning, partially due to some defensive mistakes by Am-Po.

The next three innings went scoreless, until the Lady Panthers finally got some breathing room in the top of the seventh.

Green reached base on an error and eventually scored on a wild pitch.Mackenzie Croskey also got on base by error, and Brush drove her in with an RBI single that sealed the game.

Green had two singles in the game, and reached base twice on fielding errors by Rattan.

Brush was 2-for-4 with three RBIs. Dakota Clouse went 2-for-4, and Dontasia McAfee went 1-for-3.

Brush started the game in the circle and pitched five innings, before Croskey came in and closed the deal. The two-pitcher system was an advantage for Am-Po, said Pelzer.

"Early in the year [assistant coach] Treadaway came up with the idea of splitting them, and I've always kind of been against that with pitchers, because fast-pitch pitchers take longer to warm up than baseball," Pelzer said. "But it's worked well, because you're bringing in a fresh arm, whereas a lot of teams only have one good arm."

Brush only allowed two hits in five innings, and Croskey allowed no hits and one walk in her two innings, striking out two.

The Lady Panthers will face No. 3 Binger-Oney today at 4 p.m. in the state semifinals. If Amber-Pocasset wins, it will play for the state championship Saturday at 4 p.m.

But, if the Panthers lose, that doesn't take away from the great run the team had this season, becoming the first Am-Po fast-pitch team to go to the state tournament.

"We're going to play a really good Binger team, with one of the better coaches in the state at any level, coach Wilson," Pelzer said. "But we're just going to go out here and play our game, and not worry about who we're playing."