Lauren Niemiec is congratulated by Coach Sam Toy as she carries off her walk-off home run ball against Wood High School during Friday’s playoff game. Democrat Photo by Mark Studyvin.

Sports

Lady Trojans win first two

By From page A6 | May 24, 2017

This was no ordinary walk-off homer, in fact this was not Lauren Niemiec’s ordinary spot in the batting order. Then again this is no ordinary softball team.

Niemiec hit a solo shot over the left field fence in the bottom of the fifth inning Friday to give Oak Ridge a 11-1 mercy rule victory over visiting Wood — depleted talent-wise due to the loss of its seniors at their Senior Trip — to advance to the double-elimination round of the Division I CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Championship.

“I definitely wanted to help the team out,” said Niemiec. “We were set on finishing on that inning. We always want to make sure to shut them down as soon as possible. But I was just thinking line drive. If I think home run, I’m going to pop it up.”

For Troy’s head coach it’s all about going with the player with the right mind-set the day before the game.

“She was looking good at practice, and I was feeling good about her focus,” Sam Toy said. “She was all over the pitches. She’s a confident hitter.”

Trojan starting pitcher Nicole Eccles threw five innings and gave up one run to the Wildcats on four hits, two walks and six strikeouts. Her only run came courtesy of three straight bunts by the Wildcats in the third inning.

“They wanted to test our defense on our small ball game,” Taylor Railey said. “They tried but just couldn’t. We felt pretty good out there defensively.”

Trojans batters collected a total of 10 hits. Kelley Renner was 2-for-3 with three RBIs, Railey hit 2-for-2 and drove in a run, and Hannah Dardano went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored.

“It’s all about the practice the day before, talking to them about the game plan, and sticking to that game plan,” Toy said. “I think they did and did a good job of stringing hits together again.”

After three straight singles to load the bases in the first inning, Kendall Kelly hit a sacrifice fly to take a 1-0 lead. Later in the inning Renner hit a two-run single to extend the lead to 4-0.

With a 6-1 advantage going into the bottom of the fourth inning, Oak Ridge added four more runs on four hits and two errors. Dardano drove in a run on a triple, and scored on a throwing error. Kelly doubled, then scored on Kirtlan’s dropped fly ball, followed by an RBI single by Renner for a 10-1 lead.

Then came Niemiec’s game-ending blast.

“We don’t take any team lightly,” said Niemiec. “We want to put runs on the board because it definitely gives our pitchers a cushion.”

Oak Ridge took on Tracy yesterday (May 23) at Arnaiz Stadium in Stockton.

The Trojans opened the playoffs with a 12-2 win over visiting West Wednesday as slap-hit specialist Renner went 4-for-4, stole two bases and drove in two runs.

Eccles started and stymied the Wolfpack until a late home run broke up her shutout bid. Eccles struckou six and gave up five hits before Brook Niemiec took over and pitched the last inning.

Oak Ridge complied 15 hits. Dardano, Kelly, Railey, Hunt and Kirtlan each had two hits. The Trojans scored three run in their first at bat, all they’d need, and added three more in the second.

“We’ve been working a lot on waiting and getting our timing down, hitting as a team and stringing hits together,” said Dardano. “Today we did really well stringing hits together, especially after two outs. This ain’t no picnic.”

In the bottom of the sixth — with the score 8-2 — Oak Ridge batters hit four straight singles to drive in three runs, then scored its final run on an error for a 10-run mercy rule win. Renner hit the last of three RBI singles in the inning, then stole second to prompt a wide throw from the Wolfpack catcher that allowed Kirtlan to score from third base.

 

Mark Studyvin

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