by Jeff Whitener
Mother Nature Can’t Stop Streaking Jeffco Softballers
After a week without games, partially due to weather conditions, you would think the Jefferson Vikings softball team might have been a little rusty Sunday. Instead, the Vikings look like a well-oiled machine, taking two games from #14th-ranked Crowder in thrilling fashion. The roughriders entered Sunday’s doubleheader with a 24-2 record and a 20-game winning streak. The Vikings sported a 14-3 record and an 8-game winning streak. Something had to give.
Haile Farris took the circle for game 1, which was a pitcher’s duel right from the start. The 1st 7 batters of the game struck out, setting the tone that runs would be hard to come by. In the 2nd inning, Crowder opened up the scoring with a solo home run. The Roughriders tacked on another run in the 3rd frame, thanks to a pair of singles. Two walks later, the bases were loaded before Farris induced a ground ball for the 3rd out to limit the damage. Meanwhile, Crowder Pitching had set the Viking batters down in order through the 1st 3 innings, and Jefferson could only muster 1 hit through the 1st 5 innings. The breakthrough would come in the 6th, thanks to a momentum-shifting top half of the frame. Two base hits and an error put Crowder runner on 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs. The next hitter pulled a soft liner down the 3rd base line and Jenna Roth laid out to make a great inning-ending catch. The game remained 2-0 in favor of the Roughriders, but the energy and momentum had shifted to the Vikings. In the bottom half of the frame, Lindsey Brandt led things off with a hustling double, and a Jenna Roth sacrifice bunt moved her to 3rd. Leadoff hitter Sara Roth then hit a ground ball to the 2nd baseman, who quickly threw home and Brandt was tagged out at the plate. With Roth at 1st after the Fielder’s Choice, Riley Eagan stepped to the plate. Eagan clubbed a 1-2-pitch over the right-centerfield wall to tie the game and send the Viking faithful into a frenzy. Crowder would put the leadoff batter on in the top of the 7th, but Farris retired the next 3 batters to set the stage for more late-inning heroics. Tara Haag led off the inning for Jefferson and hit a sinking liner that was caught by the leaping Crowder shortstop. Designated player Kiersten Nixon stepped into the box next. With a count of 1-1, Nixon deposited the next pitch over the rightfield wall for a solo shot and walk-off winner for the Vikings. Nixon was mobbed at home plate by her teammates and the Vikings escaped with a 3-2 victory.
Halie Farris picked up her 7th win of the season after going all 7 innings. The sophomore hurler gave up 2 runs on 6 hits. She struck out 9 and walked 2 batters. Riley Eagan was 1 for 3 and hit the game-tying home run. Kiersten Nixon was 1 for 3 with the game-winning round-tripper.
Game 2 started much like game 1. Nixon claimed the circle for the Vikings and the 1st inning was a quiet one for both teams. In the 2nd, Crowder earned a 1 out walk and pushed across a run on a 2 out double to draw first blood. Both teams failed to get anything going at the plate until the bottom of the 5th. Jefferson’s Kennedy Kohler led off the frame with a single. Next up was Lindsey Brandt, who bunted back to the pitcher. The throw to 1st base was errant, allowing Kohler to move to 3rd while Brandt scooted to 2nd. Jenna Roth then hit a sacrifice ground out to the 2nd baseman, scoring Kohler, and moving Brandt to 3rd. After a strikeout for out number 2, Eagan would come through in the clutch once more. An RBI single from her bat plated Brandt and gave the Vikes a 2-1 lead. But the Roughriders weren’t done yet. In the top of the 6th, Crowder got a runner aboard courtesy of a 1 out walk. Nixon retired the next batter but with 2 outs, a long drive to centerfield was dropped at the fence and the tying run raced home on the error. We headed to the bottom half of the inning and Jefferson would once again find some comeback magic. The first 2 batters were retired to lead off the inning. Then it was Bailey Shuman’s shot at redemption. Atoning for her run-tying error, Shuman smacked a single to right. Kennedy Kohler next drew a walk, putting 2 runners on. Lindsey Brandt brought Bailey Shuman home with an RBI base hit. Jenna Roth followed with a single of her own and Kohler raced across the plate, giving Jefferson a 4-2 lead. In the top of the 7th, Nixon retired the Roughriders in order and the Vikings swept the day.
Nixon was dominant in the circle. In 7 innings of work, she gave up 1 earned run on 2 hits while striking out 13 and walking 3. The victory was her 8th of the year and lowered her ERA to 2.48. Eagan, Brandt, and Jenna Roth were all 1-3 with 1 RBI for the Vikings.
The wins pushed Jefferson’s overall record to 16-3 and 2-0 in Conference play. The Vikings are scheduled to play Three Rivers at 2 PM Tuesday in another Conference Battle.