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The runs just piled up. Doubles hit to the fence, the softball skirting Shelby players as if possessed.
Mercy’s aggressive hitting and base running was given a boost by the Rockets' defensive indecision and quickly sinking hopes.
By the time they were out of the second inning against No. 10-ranked Mercy the Rockets were down, 12-0, en route to a 13-3 loss in five innings.
“We had so many bobbles,” Rocket Coach Kelly Cable said. “Swinging at pitches above our heads…we’re a better team than that.”
The Rockets ended up using all three of their pitchers, starting with junior Kristina Gramig. Cable had hoped her off-speed pitches would keep the Jaguars (16-8-1) guessing.
Mercy plays a heavily out-of-state schedule that pits hitters against power throwers. When Mercy jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning against Shelby, Cable called on relief pitcher Jeneca Thomas, a sophomore.
Thomas stopped the bleeding in the first inning, but the Jaguars broke her and the defense in the second inning, making it through the entire Mercy batting order and scoring eight runs.
Meanwhile, Shelby’s offense was stagnant. Starting pitcher J.J. Francis struck out seven batters. Her fourth-inning relief, Marissa Hobson, struck out three.
Rocket freshman Sarah Lopesilvero was 2-for-3 at the plate and put Shelby on board with a two RBI single in the third inning.
“The second pitcher, she had a lot of changeups, so you had to watch the ball. The first pitcher, she had a rise ball, which got us in the beginning,” Lopesilvero said. “I think we came out and we weren’t focused. We need more warm-up time. We have to get hyped up.”
Shelby started a two-out rally in the top of the fifth inning with singles from Hannah Stucker, Lopesilvero, Kara Owens and finally an RBI single from Courtney Tinsley to make the score 12-3. But Hobson struck out Sara Chambers with the bases loaded to end the inning.
Stucker, a senior, had relieved Thomas to start the third inning. She didn’t have any strikeouts, but the contact Mercy made on her pitches made for easy outs. In the fifth, Jaguar Madeline McGinty scored Lauren Beahl, a walk-off single to end the game.
To Shelby’s credit, it had been an emotional couple days for the team. Senior center fielder Taylor Shaw’s grandmother, Vivian, had died over the weekend. The team visited the funeral home on the way to Mercy to show their support.
“She went everywhere,” Cable said of Vivian Shaw. “I just love that woman. She was our biggest fan.
“We can’t take anything away from Mercy. They’re an excellent team, very disciplined, very fundamentally sound.”
The loss puts Shelby 11-12. After being ranked No. 24 on April 28, the Rockets fell off the state polls issued May 4.