July 23, 2016

Mostly clear

Online posting fires up Wildcats for softball showdown

LAGRANGE — It wasn’t the French bread pizza, fries and chocolate milk alone that got Keystone’s Alyson Broschk pumped Wednesday afternoon.

Even dining on such fine cuisine is unlikely to fuel a 3-for-3 day at the plate that included two triples, three runs scored, an RBI and two stolen bases.

Keystone’s Alyson Broschk steals second base on a high throw to Black River’s Kayla Finkel. Below, the Wildcats’ Alisha Silva jumps on home plate after belting a home run. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY STEVE MANHEIM)

Broschk, the Wildcats senior right fielder, revealed that she and others on the team had been privy to a derogatory tweet posted by a member of a rival softball team. Broschk characterized it as “sarcastic.”

She said that’s what got her and the top-ranked Wildcats rolling in a 7-0 victory over previously once-beaten Black River. It happened in Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division action at LaGrange Community Park.

And, Broschk added, the tweet was not posted by a member of the Black River team.

The Pirates, nevertheless, paid the price. A much-anticipated matchup between two of the area’s top pitchers — Keystone’s Kenzie Conrad and Black River’s Dagmar Smith — became something other than a pitchers’ duel.

It turned into a lopsided win for the ’Cats (12-0, 7-0), who are ranked No. 1 in Division II in the state coaches association’s first weekly poll and have outscored opponents 142-6. The Pirates dropped to 10-2 overall and 6-1 in the PAC.

With Broschk setting the tone, the Wildcats put up 10 hits that included a double by senior shortstop Erin Pond, Broschk’s triples and solo home runs by seniors Alisha Silva and Pond. Silva’s shot over the fence in right-center broke a scoreless tie with two outs in the second inning.

“The chocolate milk’s what did it,” Broschk said later. “This was our biggest conference game, so all day today and pretty much all week we’ve been really pumped to play them. Plus, we had some extra motivation today when we got to the park. It was something someone from another school said on Twitter.”

Pond’s blast over the left-center fence came on Smith’s first pitch of the third inning and gave Keystone a 3-0 lead. The Wildcats added a second run in the second after Broschk hit an infield single, stole second and third and ran home on a Pirates’ throwing error.

Conrad, meanwhile, crafted a three-hit shutout in which she struck out five and walked none.

“Her dropballs were working really good,” senior catcher Bri Buckley said. “Actually, every time she threw a rise ball it worked, too. She threw mostly dropballs.”

Keystone also played flawless defense. Not only that, the Wildcats turned a 5-4-3 double play in the fifth inning — an uncommon feat in high school softball because the bases are just 60 feet apart.

“It was a textbook play,” said junior third baseman Brittany Bowers, who went 2-for-3 at the plate and put up two RBIs. “I was playing in a little bit and the grounder just came right to me. I already had it in my head to go to second and Bee (Shaw) was there.”

The Wildcats added two runs in the fourth. Catcher Bri Buckley, whose drive sent the Pirates outfield to the fence, raced around to third when the ball was misplayed. She eventually scored on a passed ball.
And Broschk scored for the second time after she tripled to right-center and scored on Bowers’ triple down the left-field line.

Keystone put it out of reach with two more in the sixth. Silva, who reached on a fielder’s choice, scored on Broschk’s second triple, and Broschk scored on Bowers’ single to right for her second RBI.

Black River coach Merle Simmons said his Pirates needed to put strings of hits together, but Conrad wouldn’t allow it.

“They’re a great team,” he said. “They’re well-groomed, they play a lot of ball together and they’re a big, strong team. They’re a great hitting team. You know, one through nine. Other than Erin (Pond, Keystone’s leadoff batter) hitting one out, it was the bottom of their order the past two years that’s killed us.”

No. 8 hitter Broschk and No. 9 Bowers had five of Keystone’s 10 hits.

“I’m really happy with the way we’ve been playing since last Friday’s practice,” Keystone coach Jim Piazza said. “It’s been like a big turnaround, not that we were playing bad. It just seemed like something was missing. The energy is all back, the excitement is back and they’re swinging the bats really well right now.”

Contact Bob Daniels at (440) 329-7135 or softball@bobdaniels.info.