RANTOUL — The Rantoul Eagles softball team fought back, but just couldn’t hold on at the end in a heartbreaker against the Lockport Porters Saturday.
The Eagles dropped an 11-8 decision in eight innings to the visiting Porters.
The Eagles had trailed through the first five innings and were down 4-3 going into the sixth.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Eagles loaded the bases after a single, an infield error and a walk with one out.
Bella Shields came through with a two-RBI single to give the Eagles a 5-4.
Jenna Sanford upped it to 6-4 with a single — but the lead wouldn’t last.
The Porters started the seventh with a leadoff single by AlyssaDrogemuller, which was followed by another single by Kelli Riordan that advanced Drogemuller to third.
Riordan stole second, and on the catcher’s throw to second, Drogemuller scored. Riordan advanced to third by tagging from second after Brooke Ligacki flied out to right. Riordan scored to tie the game 6-6 after Julia Foster grounded out with one out.
“We did a good job battling to just hold them to those two,” Rantoul coach Travis Flesner said.
The Eagles failed to score in the bottom of the seventh.
In the top of the eighth, a double and a single put runners on second and third. Lauren Johnson then hit a fly ball to left field that Rantoul’s Kristen Fauser was unable to catch, allowing two runs to score.
The Porters added two more runs for an 11-6 lead.
Rantoul made it interesting in the bottom of the eighth. After a leadoff walk by Rhyane Bushman, Mackenzie Tome hit a two-run home run to cut the lead to three. But the hosts could muster no more runs.
Flesner said he was proud of his team’s performance against a Class 4A school that has an overall record of 20-5 and a 9-0 mark in its conference.
“They are a very good team, and I’m glad we had the opportunity to play them,” Flesner said. “We were able to compete very well.”
For the Eagles, Tome went 2 for 4 and along with her home run, she hit an RBI double in the bottom of the fourth.
Jerzie Grob and Fauser also drove in an RBI a piece.
Erin Kleffman pitched all eight innings for the Porters. She allowed seven earned runs (eight total), 10 hits and had 10 strikeouts.
“Our offense played almost as well it as it has all year," Flesner said. “That’s a very good pitcher we went up against, and we were hitting her early. We started moving players around and scoring. They had a few more good at-bats than we did today.”
Flesner said he was encouraged that his team didn’t give up after losing the lead in the eighth.
“It’s easy in an eight-inning game to kind of get down when teams score five runs,” Flesner said “We kept our heads up and came back. We scored a couple of runs and rolled over to the top of the order.”
Lexi Sherrick started on the bump for the Eagles. Sherrick went seven innings and gave up 11 hits, five earned runs (seven total) and struck out one.
“Sherrick did phenomenal and is pitching very well,” Flesner said. “She is hitting some good spots by getting pop ups and ground outs. The defense behind her played very well.”
Overall the Eagles are 7-13 and 1-6 in conference play.
For Flesner, the key for his team to work on is improving, which means executing on offensive situations with runners on base.
“We are working on our swings in practice, and it has showed in the past few games,” Flesner said. “We are battling. The girls are not giving up, which is all we can ask for.”
The next game for the Eagles will be at home against Centennial on 4:30 p.m. Monday.
Contact Ben Theobald at email@example.com