Rockets strike out in Florida

Kenny Kruse, Staff Reporter

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The Strike Out Cancer Tournament in Boca Raton, Florida was not very kind the University of Toledo Rockets softball team. The midnight blue and gold carry a 2-8 record as they continue their season.

On the opening day of the tournament, Feb. 17, the Rockets were defeated by Tulsa 4-5 and then by the host of the tournament, Florida Atlantic, 0-8.

On the second day, Feb. 18, the Rockets lost to Syracuse 0-5 and St. John’s 3-4. On Sunday, Feb. 19, the final day of the tournament, the Rockets surpassed Savannah State 14-4.

UT was close to winning the opening game against Tulsa when fourth-year second baseman Chandler Rice (3-for-4) hit a solo home run in the top of the third inning. Rice also hit a two-out, three-run homer in the top of the fifth inning, giving the Rockets a 4-3 lead.

“I think we showed a lot of resilience today,” said head coach Kristen Butler in a UTRockets interview. “Chandler was clutch all day by recording all of our RBI on her two home runs. That was a big showing of her senior leadership, and I’m expecting to see that from her all season.”

Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough when Heather Webb, a second-year pitcher for the Rockets, gave up two runs on two errors in the seventh for a Hurricane victory.

“We just have to do a better job at closing out our games,” added Butler in the UTRockets interview. “Chandler came up big for us in the seventh, and we needed to be able to close out defensively. Heather threw a great game up until the last inning. We need to be able to put away the game when it matters.”

Against Florida Atlantic University, Samantha Golden, a first-year third baseman for the Rockets, and first-year first baseman Morgan Paaverud each went 2-for-3 at the plate, giving the Rockets four hits.

The FAU Owls scored a run in the opening inning off of a wild pitch and added a run in the second with a home run. FAU extended their lead in the fourth inning with two doubles, scoring four runs. A few at-bats later, the Owls tallied two more runs on an RBI double to deep center field.

Hitting early and often is what lifted the Syracuse Orange over the Rockets in their third game of the tournament. An RBI triple to left field in the first inning and two additional runs in the third inning gave Syracuse a comfortable lead early over UT.

Another run was scored off of a wild pitch in the fifth inning and an additional run in the seventh from an RBI single closed out the victory for the Syracuse Orange.

The Rockets scored early against St. John’s from fourth-year outfielder, Celeste Fidge, collecting an RBI.

UT added another in the second inning due to a pair of Red Storm errors.

The Red Storm fought back and tied the game from a sacrifice fly out to right field and a Rocket throwing error to home plate.

Back and forth the game continued with runs scored, but the Rockets were unable to close out the final inning due to a game-winning RBI single from the Red Storm.

“We fought hard today, and we hit the ball well,” said Butler in a UTRockets interview. “We need to do a better time of closing out games and coming through with clutch hits. Our pitching is improving, but we need to focus on the little things that will help us get the win.”

Sunday treated the Rockets kindly with a promising victory over Savannah State. Kailey Minarchick, a second-year pitcher, collected her first collegiate victory while throwing 4 innings.

Hitting for the Rockets was consistent. Rice went 3-for-4 with three doubles and multiple RBIs and scored runs. Third-year outfielder Ashley Rausch also went 3-for-4, scored three runs and collected a pair of RBIs. Megan Choate, a second-year shortstop, was another Rocket to go 3-for-4.

After the first inning, Toledo took a 2-0 lead. Second-year third baseman, Katie Cozy was part of the lineup to contribute to bring in runs along with Golden, fourth-year catcher Ashley Maynard, and Fidge.

Savannah State quickly hit a three-run triple in the second inning before the Rockets extended the lead two innings later. Golden hit her first career double to left-center field, allowing Rauch to score.

SSU did fight back to score another run, cutting Toledo’s lead 6-4 in the bottom of the fourth. This was the final run of the game for the Tigers.

The Rockets added a run to make their lead 7-4 in the fifth before scoring seven additional runs in the sixth and final inning. Rice hit her third RBI double of the game and third-year outfielder Marriah Wise hit her first triple as a Rocket to collect two RBIs for the final runs of the game.

Next weekend, UT softball will be on road to South Carolina for four games, taking part in the Buffalo Wild Wings Classic Tournament. On Friday, Feb. 24, the Rockets will play Sacred Heart at 11 a.m. and Furman at 1 p.m., with the games splayed in Greensville, SC. The following day in Spartanburg, SC, the Rockets will take on Western Carolina at 11 a.m. and USC-Upstate at 1 p.m.


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Rockets strike out in Florida