Softball: Offense lacking for Cannon Falls
CANNON FALLS - Offense is hard to come by for Cannon Falls this season.
The Bombers had scored a total of nine runs in six games, including four shutouts, heading into Thursday's matchup with Pine Island. It didn't get any better against the Panthers.
Cannon Falls filled the bases in the fourth inning and the seventh inning but could only push across a solitary run in a 2-1 defeat.
"We worked as hard this spring as we ever have," Bombers' head coach Mike Gunderson said. "We just haven't been able to take it on the field. We lost three of our top hitters so I knew it'd be a concern but I thought we could be able to get some girls to step up. They're hesitant."
Kaitlyn Champa threw a complete game for the Panthers (4-9), giving up an unearned run on five hits and five walks. She struck out nine and knocked in both of Pine Island's run at the plate.
Cannon Falls' Lydia Franken had control problems in the first two innings but matched Champa most of the game, throwing seven innings and allowing two runs on five hits, five walks and three hit batters while striking out 11. Franken said the rainy and windy conditions caused her to lose the grip on some of her pitches early in the game and forced her to stop using her rise ball.
"The ball gets pretty slippery," she said. "I just kind of got used to it and had to battle. The fastball was working."
The Panthers threatened with two hits in the first inning but the second inning is where things got away from Franken. She walked three hitters in the inning to load the bases with two outs and Champa came through with a well-struck single to plate Taylor Bates and Hailey Hoffmann. Franken got a pop-up to end the inning.
The Bombers (1-6) were stagnant on offensive until the fourth inning when Brooke Peters led off with a single. After consecutive strikeouts, Pine Island's defense helped Cannon Falls with an error and a walk loaded the bases with two outs. In the ensuing at-bat, Anna Rapp walked to pick up an RBI and Becca Vandenheuvel grounded into a fielder's choice for the final out.
Franken held the Panthers to two hits in the final three innings, giving the Bombers a chance for the comeback victory. Cannon Falls got two runners on base in the fifth inning but Gabby Heckmann was picked off first base on a throw from catcher to end the inning. The Bombers made another base-running mistake in the third inning when Cannon Falls' runner tagged up with two outs instead of running home from second base on a single to right field.
"We had some miscues on the bases today," Gunderson said. "There's too much inexperience."
The Bombers had another chance to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh inning as they loaded the bases with two outs but the game ended on a check-swing third strike. It was a fitting ending as Cannon Falls second-guessed at the plate for most of the afternoon.
"The hits just aren't really working for us," Franken said. "We just have to focus and swing the bat more."
Gunderson said Thursday's game was a must-win, but the Bombers will need to refocus quickly for Friday's game at Kenyon-Wanamingo before hosting an invitational Saturday.