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Improbable five-run opening inning propels Ottawa to series split with La Salle-Peru – Shaw Local
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Improbable five-run opening inning propels Ottawa to series split with La Salle-Peru – Shaw Local

OTTAWA – Five pitches later, Ottawa’s lowest point of the first round in the Interstate 8 Conference rematch with archrival La Salle-Peru Cavaliers didn’t exactly scream “big inning.”

Two outs, no one, 0-2 count.

However, the Pirates’ Maura Condon worked a walk out of that 0-2 hole, followed by three singles, four more walks and five LP wild pitches. By the time the dust settled and the second inning began, Ottawa had scored five runs and was on its way to salvaging an I-8 series split with the Cavaliers, 13-5 Wednesday at King Field.

“We preached that we had to be patient,” Ottawa coach Adam Lewis said, “and then we come out and we get two outs on three pitches. But then 0-2, two outs, a full count, and then it was one after the other, then passing the bat.

“Nobody wants to lose to their rival, and we’re no different. But what we just talked about was we used this as a stepping stone to take a small step here to end the season and take big steps into the postseason.”

Although it was Condon who worked his way back from the aforementioned 0-2 count to start the rally and teammates Bobbi Snook, Reese Purcell and Kendall Lowery provided the hits, the leadoff hitter’s biggest at-bat might have come from No. 6 hitter. Peyton Bryson. Her 10-pitch plate performance allowed Bryson to clear four full pitches before drawing a bases-loaded walk to open the scoring – and open the floodgates.

“Part of our plan today was to work on your hitting, go long at bats and wear out the pitchers,” Bryson said. “The more pitches we see, the better we will hit, and the more pitchers we wear out, the better we will perform.

“I just knew that if I waited for the pitch I wanted, it would end in a hit, and if it ended in a walk, it ended in a walk, we got a run, and it would be my team anyway also help.”

La Salle-Peru (14-12 overall, 6-4 in the I-8) countered with a run in the top of the second inning, but the Pirates (18-10, 5-5) answered. A Snook solo homer in the second offset LP’s first attempt at a rally, and Ottawa’s seven-run fifth was a decisive, final answer to the Cavaliers’ three-run fifth-inning top, which briefly made it a narrow 6 -4 of it. ball game.

Ottawa left fielder Reese Purcell makes an over-the-shoulder catch deep in left field against La Salle-Peru on Wednesday.

All seven of the Pirates’ runs in the fifth inning were unearned for the team on a day when the Cavs committed three errors and their three pitchers captured the circle – starter Bri Ruppert (2/3 IP, 5 ER, 3 H, 5 BB, 0 K) and relievers Callie Mertes (2 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 1 BB, 3 K) and Ava Lambert (1 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 0 BB, 2 K) – combined to throw six wild pitches.

“Five minutes before we got on the bus, we found out Taylor (Vescogni) couldn’t throw today, and at that point it seemed like everyone had their heads down,” Cavs coach Randy Huebbe said. “Instead of being a good team that says, ‘Okay, we’ve got this pitcher’s back and we’re going to play our butts off,’ we just lay down. There was no effort.

“Kudos to (Ottawa). They came to play. We knew they would. If we beat them last time, they’ll show up.”

Ottawa’s Condon, meanwhile, kept the lead comfortably except for those brief minutes in the fifth and LP pulled within a few runs. She closed with the complete-game win, allowing five runs (three earned) on seven hits, one walk and two strikeouts.

Lambert and Vescogni, the last in the lineup as the Cavs’ designated player, each doubled and scored a run for La Salle-Peru. Grace Pecchio came off the bench to pinch hit in the fifth and delivered an RBI single, then stayed in the order and led off the seventh with a leadoff double for LP’s only multi-hit performance against Condon.

Snook finished 3 for 4 with the home run and three RBIs to lead the Ottawa charge. Lowery added two hits and a pair of RBIs, while Bryson finished with two RBIs.

The Pirates and Cavaliers will head in different directions for the Class 3A regionals, with Ottawa staying at home against former conference rival Plano on May 22. LP heads to Metamora and opens against long-time league rival Streator on May 21.

La Salle-Peru starting pitcher Bri Ruppert fires off Wednesday, May 8, 2024, at home in Ottawa.