RANTOUL — The Rantoul Eagles and Fisher Bunnies softball game got off to a quiet and slow start.

No runs were scored in the first two innings. Both teams struggled to put the ball in play, leaving runners stranded on the bases.

Fisher strikes first

 Then Fisher’s Sidney Hood came up to bat in the top of the third inning and did something she doesn’t usually do. Hood hit a home run over the left field wall to give the Bunnies a 1-0 lead.

"It was a little bit unexpected," Fisher coach Ken Ingold said. "I have her batting leadoff this year, because she has pretty good speed and makes contact. I think she definitely could hit some home runs this year, but that’s not really her game. So, that was a pleasant surprise."

Still leading 1-0 in the third, Fisher’s starting pitcher, Sydney Eichelberger, put her bat to use. Eichelberger hit a double, putting herself in scoring position. Eichelberger scored after a Rantoul fielding error to make the score 2-0.

Sherrick homers to put Rantoul on the board

The Eagles didn’t get on the scoreboard until the bottom of the fourth inning when, pitcher, Lexi Sherrick hit a homerun to cut the lead in half, 2-1. Unfortunately for Rantoul, the home run was Rantoul’s only run in the game. Fisher went on to win 3-1.

The Eagles had only four hits and left seven runners stranded.

"We need to hit the ball better," Rantoul head coach Travis Flesner said. "We’re not going to win many games with one run."

Errors were a factor in the Eagles’ loss. The team made two errors, both in the third and fifth innings that gave Fisher two runs.

"The throwing error from third base hurt us because if we keep that in the infield then they don’t score that run, because Lexi got the next batter out," Flesner said. "Then the fly balls in the outfield that we dropped in the fifth cost us that additional run putting us down 3-1."

Eichelberger was productive on the mound for Fisher. Eichelberger struck out five, gave up only run, and limited the Eagles’ ability to put the ball in play.

"She’s very solid on the mound," Ingold said. "She’s a senior. She’s won a lot of games for us in her career."

Flesner said his players had trouble catching up to Eichelberger’s speed, which is something they will have to get used to if they want to be successful for the rest of the season. Flesner has been, preparing them to deal with fast pitchers, but games are a different story.

"Seeing it live is completely different than when I do it," Flesner said. "We have to get used to that because Pontiac has two pitchers that throw harder than she does. BCC has a pitcher that throws really hard. As does St. Joe. Those are conference games that we are going to have to get used to the speed of the pitching."

Rantoul’s Sherrick allowed eight hits, two earned runs and struck out six.

Rantoul unable to deliver on scoring opportunity

There were opportunities for the Eagles to score more runs. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Rantoul had the bases loaded with two outs. Mosley attempted to score after a wild pitch but then got tagged out at home plate. Flesner did not like the call made by the umpire. Flesner thought Eichelberger didn’t have the ball when she tagged Mosley.

"Obviously, we want all of the calls to go our way," Flesner said. "Those do not dictate whether we win or lose."

Ingold said his team was lucky Rantoul did not score in the fifth inning, given how well the Eagles can run the bases.

"They are excellent baserunners, and they have speed," Ingold said. "Getting Jada Mosley out at home plate on the ball that got away with our catcher was a huge play. We were fortunate that we were able to make some plays when we really needed them."

Hood also was key for Fisher on defense in the fifth inning, when she made a double play by making a diving catching for a line drive that was hit by Rantoul’s Kristen Fauser. Hood then tagged out Sherrick, who was on second base, making a double play to end the fifth inning.

"That defensive play really bailed us out when it seemed Rantoul had something going on," Ingold said.

Ingold’s only complaint about his team was the number of runners that were left on base by the Bunnies.

"The only thing I didn’t like is that we left seven runners on base," Ingold said. "When you average one left on base per inning that means you are hitting the ball, but we do need to do a better job of getting the runners around and getting them in."

Next up for Fisher and Rantoul

Next up for the Eagles will be their upcoming game in the Alabama Gulf Shores Spring Trip tournament where the team is expected go up against Chilton County today. The game is expected to start at 7 p.m. The next game for the Bunnies will be today at home against the Armstrong Trojans. First pitch will be at 4:30 p.m.

Contact Ben Theobald at btheobald@rantoulpress.com