For the second time in the last three games, Silver Bay senior Jocelyn Russell has made a potentially game-saving catch and turned it into a double play in the Mariners 6-1 win over Cromwell-Wright in the opening round of the Section 7A tournament.
Two weeks ago, Russell tracked down a ball against Esko, ending a rally that could have put the game out of reach for the Mariners. Instead, Silver Bay hung on for the win. On Tuesday, May 22, the Mariners were clinging to a 2-1 in the top of the sixth. The Cardinals Amber Lehte hit a ball to left center field and Russell tracked it down, colliding with left-fielder Julia Littlewolf. A runner on first base tried to advance following the collision, but Russell hit Megan Maxey at the cutoff and the runner was tagged out by second baseman Jessie Ketola.
"I was irritated and I was like if I don't catch this ball it could be game over," Russell said.
Not content to save the game defensively, Russell hit a two RBI triple in the bottom of the sixth inning to give the Mariner defense a couple more insurance runs headed into the final inning.
Russell was 0-for-2 going into the sixth inning and said she was getting "a little bit jumpy in the box," but she relaxed and waited for the right pitch. After the ball tipped off the center fielder's glove, she used her speed to turn the hit into a triple.
The Mariner defense played well throughout the game, with pitcher Cora Carter keeping Cardinal batters in check, allowing six hits over seven innings, striking out six batters, while not allowing a single walk. Maxey, the shortstop, and Ketola made a couple of good stops on ground balls to prevent Cardinal batters from reach base.
The defense needed to be good early as the Mariners struggled to figure out Cromwell-Wright pitcher Elisabeth Kachinske. The Mariners went scoreless over the first four innings and loaded the bases in the third inning without plating a run. Kachinske allowed just six hits, but seven walks kept Silver Bay runners on the base paths and allowed them to use bunts to put pressure on the defense.
"We were very tight, but we played good defense and we used the bunt to win," Silver Bay coach Mike Guzzo said. "We used the bunt to pressure the defense and we made them make plays."
Silver Bay (14-5) was scheduled to play Nashwauk-Keewatin at 4 p.m. Thursday, May 24, at Braun Park in Cloquet. The Spartans (10-5) topped North Woods 9-1 on Tuesday to advance.