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04-06-04 Panthers rally for victory

By Gary R. Rasberry

MENDON — After Saturday’s doubleheader with Wapakoneta, Parkway softball coach Mark Esselstein chided his team for laying down after a rough inning.
   The lesson appeared to be learned on Monday.
   Parkway trailed St. Marys 4-0 after three innings, but came back to score three times in the fifth, once in the sixth to tie the game, then used heads-up base-running from Erica Yoder in the seventh to beat the previously unbeaten Roughriders 5-4 at Mendon. The Panthers improve to 3-1 with the win as St. Marys loses for the first time in six games.
   Esselstein was proud that his team took his words and used them to get a big win over a good Roughrider team.
   “The kids learned from that. They kept battling and put the ball in play and made pretty good contact. We were just hoping to string a few together.”
   The opportunities to get that string were tough to come by in the first few innings as St. Marys pitcher Jessica Enderud kept the Panthers scurrying. The junior held the Panthers to just one hit in the first three innings and allowed two hits in the fourth before getting out of trouble.
   St. Marys scored its runs in the fourth, finally getting to Panther ace Cassie Steinbrunner. Alison Anderson led off with a single and moved up on a bunt from Jodi Meinerding. Bridget Lauth brought Anderson home on a single, despite a great throw from center that missed by an eyelash. After Steinbrunner walked Brittany Howell, Dani Johnsman singled home pinch-runner Emily Matthews to make it 2-0. Enderud stepped up and laced a shot to shortstop. The ball got away from the fielder and Howell and Johnsman scored to make it 4-0.
   After that, though, St. Marys could not get on base. Steinrbrunner allowed just one more hit in the final four innings and picked up five of her eight strkeouts from the fourth on.
   “We played well the first four innings,” said St. Marys coach Sue Grothause. “Don’t take anything away from the girls — they played well. I think they let down in the fifth inning.”
   “She hung in there because they were timing her really good, especially early,” Esselstein said of his ace. “That one inning, they flat out hit the ball. ... She hung in there and started hitting her spots better. That made the difference.”
   The Panthers began the rally in the fifth, finally consistently getting contact on Enderud’s pitches. Steinbrunner led off with a single and was called in for a courtesy runner. Kristin Nuttle moved Brittany Young up (Continued from page 1B) with a bunt and Tiffany Steinbrunner reached on an error, Amanda Jutte singled home Steinbrunner to make it 4-2. After a Jennifer Murphy strikeout, Yoder doubled home both runners to get within one.
   In the sixth, Jayme Marbaugh singled with one out. Esselstein brought in Young again as a pinch-runner, which is allowed providing Young does not come back in. After a pop-out, Nuttle singled Young to third. Tiff Steinbrunner grounded to shortstop Dani Johnsman, who tried to force Young at third, but Young slid in early to put runners on second and third for Amanda Jutte. Enderud uncorked a wild pitch to bring Young home for the tying run. Jutte later walked but Enderud got out of the jam by striking out pinch-hitter Krista Adams.
   In the top of the seventh, Steinbrunner got the St. Marys side out 1-2-3 to set up a battle in the bottom of the seventh. Yoder led off by getting the count to 3-1 before taking ball four low to go to first. Jana Suman tried to bunt Yoder over but fouled the ball off to get the count to two strikes. Yoder settled for a single to left. The ball got past the leftfielder and Yoder moved to third. Hillary Frank came up and slapped the ball back to the mound. Yoder kept off the bag at third while being looked back and took off as soon as the ball went to first. Yoder avoided the tag at the plate to end the game.
   “She made a great play on that,” said Esselstein. “The third basemen was playing way up. There wasn’t a good reason for Erica, when they looked her back, to go all the way back. She didn’t hesitate and made a great play around the catcher.”
   “I thought we let down a little when Parkway scored those three runs,” said Grothause. “You could see the letdown.”
   Esselstein was happy to get the type of win his team received against a good St. Marys team.
   “That’s a real good team in St. Marys,” said St. Marys. “To beat them the way we beat them was big for us.”
   Grothause was very complimentary of the Panthers.
   “Mark has a great program and a great team,” said Grothause. “I knew four runs were not going to be enough to win.”
   Parkway hosts Paulding tonight at Mendon. St. Marys faces Crestivew at Convoy.


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