ROCK FALLS – The Rockets softball team twice fell behind by four runs in a nonconference home game with Moline on Friday, and both times chipped away at the deficit with runners on for a chance to score more. But the rallies fell short in an 8-6 loss.
Down to its final out trailing 8-4 in the seventh, Rock Falls got Bailee Reynolds on base thanks to a dropped third strike, and she scored when Emalie Chavira tripled to right-center. Karli Fischbach then hit a pop-up into shallow right field, and the Moline defense struggled to track it down in the strong wind, allowing the ball to drop in and Chavira to score.
But Moline relief pitcher Leeann VandeVoorde struck out Hannah Blanton to end the threat, and the game.
“We just stayed aggressive in the box,” Rock Falls coach Kris Smith said. “That’s what I told them to do, was stay aggressive and try to stay on the outside pitch.”
Moline (12-6) jumped out to a 4-0 lead after two innings thanks to a run in the first and three more in the second. Kayla DePoorter scored on a double by Sydney Jensen in the first inning, then drove in Ava Michna with a single in the second. Ally Gore followed with an RBI single to score two more runs.
DePoorter had a pair of singles in her first two at bats and finished the game 2-for-3.
“I just try to stay super-aggressive since I’m the leadoff [hitter], so I know I have to get on,” she said. “I try to do the best for my team.”
Through two innings, Rock Falls pitcher Payton Yanes allowed four runs, all earned, and five hits, but the Rockets’ ace settled in after that, retiring the Maroons in order in the third and working around a one-out single in the fourth.
“I think I just needed to get used to the umpire’s zone,” she said. “Sometimes you have to adjust to them a little bit, depending on what their zone is. I felt that I was throwing some strikes, but if he didn’t think so, I had to change my location a little bit.”
Yanes, in just her second game back after going through concussion protocol after being hit by a line drive in an April 6 game against Rockridge, struck out seven and issued just two walks. She and struck out seven in a win over Mendota in her return Thursday, but feels she is still working her way back.
“I am so happy to be back,” Yanes said. “[Coach Smith] didn’t let me go to a couple of games just because I wasn’t supposed to be in sunlight, I was supposed to be resting my brain. So I got to come to two games, I got to go to the Geneseo game and the Dixon game, and those were two games we lost. I just sat there and I felt so helpless the entire time because I couldn’t go out there and help them, I couldn’t change anything. I’m just so happy to be back in the circle.”
Moline got to her again in the fifth as Jensen doubled to drive in two runs, then scored on an error, but Yanes got out of the inning with a ground ball and a strikeout. In the sixth, Yanes issued a one-out walk, but Molly Buck snared a line drive at second and flipped the ball to Chavira to double off DePoorter.
It was one of two double plays the Rockets turned in the game, also getting one in the first inning when Greta Spect lined to Chavira, who then stepped on first to double off Gore.
Moline added a run in the seventh when Jennica Soliz drove in Spect with a single.
The Maroons had 11 hits in the game, with seven different players recording at least one.
“I think we were waiting for our pitch,” DePoorter said. “Their pitcher was pretty good, and we were just staying focused and did the best we could.”
Rock Falls chipped away at the 4-0 deficit with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third. After Morgan Mandrell and Payton Johnson led off the inning with singles, Yanes drove in a run with a single of her own to put runners on the corners. Johnson then scored from third when Yanes was caught in a rundown between first and second.
The Rockets added two more runs in the fifth to cut the deficit to 7-4. Johnson started the rally with a one-out triple.
“Today I was just really focusing on watching the ball all the way in,” Johnson said. “Just doing what I normally do.”
She later scored on a wild pitch, and the Rockets loaded the bases after Buck was hit by a pitch, Yanes drew an intentional walk, and Bailee Reynolds walked. Chavira’s single brought in Buck.
But Moline pitcher Lindsey Glass got a strikeout and a popout to short to get out of the bases-loaded jam.
Moline sent three pitchers to the circle, with DePoorter starting and working into the third, allowing two runs, both earned, and four hits. Glass finished the third and worked the fourth and fifth, allowing a pair of earned runs and two hits and striking out three. VandeVoorde pitched the final two innings, allowing two runs and striking out two.
“That was our plan, to use all three of our pitchers,” Moline coach Mark Gerlach said. “We’ve got a conference doubleheader [Saturday], so I wanted to use all three of them [Friday] and get them a chance to pitch a little bit.”
Moline 8, Rock Falls 6
Star of the game: Kayla DePoorter, Moline, 2-3, 1 RBI, 2 1/3 IP
Key performers: Payton Johnson, Rock Falls, 2-4, 2 runs; Payton Yanes, Rock Falls, 7 IP, 7 Ks; Sydney Jensen, Moline, 3 RBIs; Emalie Chavira, 2-4, 2 RBIs, unassisted double play
Up next: Rock Falls at Ottawa, 10 a.m. Saturday