Softball: LeMay powers Raptors past ParkPark senior catcher Taylor LeMay helped East Ridge beat her former team 4-3, hitting a homerun in her final at-bat at Park High School’s Charlie Whitbred Field.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, South Washington County Bulletin
Before East Ridge High School opened, current Raptors standout softball player Taylor LeMay wore a Park jersey. As a freshman, LeMay was the fifth hitter and an outfielder for the Wolfpack and then-coach Charlie Whitbred. Last Thursday, the senior catcher helped East Ridge beat her former team 4-3, hitting a homerun in her last ever at-bat at Park High School’s Charlie Whitbred Field.
“(Taylor) is a great kid,” Park head coach Bob Loshek said. “If we were up by three runs and she hits it; no problem. Of course we want to win the game and not give up a home run to Taylor, but how can you script that any better for her? Hollywood couldn’t write it any better.”
In the game, Park took a 2-0 lead in the first inning as sophomore Sam Flack drilled a double to left-center to score Rachel Suter and Mary Turitto. However, with the score 2-1, East Ridge eighth grader Anna Roth hit a big two-run single in the fifth inning to make it 3-2 in favor of the Raptors. LeMay then added an insurance run with a solo homer in the top of the seventh inning to make it 4-2. Park scored a run in the seventh, but East Ridge held on for the win.
East Ridge is now 7-7 overall and 6-7 in the SEC, while Park is 6-10 overall and 5-9 in the SEC. East Ridge currently leads the head-to-head series 4 games to 2.
“It was a very nice win for us,” East Ridge head coach Tom Nemo said. “It’s fun to beat one of your conference rivals and your neighbor. It was a good game.”
LeMay – who will play college softball at the Div. II softball Concordia University of St. Paul next fall – was 2-4 in the game. On the week, she was 9-for-14 with two homeruns, raising her average to .447 on the year.
“She’s seeing the ball really well,” Nemo said. “She’s staying back and she’s not lunging at the ball. When she gets on a role anything can happen.”
Earlier this season, LeMay helped East Ridge beat Park with a game-winning single in the 10th inning of a 6-5 game. Lemay was 2-for-5 in that game with three RBI against the Wolfpack.
“Taylor is a great hitter, no doubt about it,” Loshek said. “We kept her off balance most of the game, but the thing about great hitters is that they will make you pay eventually.”
East Ridge and Park field two of the youngest teams in the Suburban East Conference this season.
Park’s roster is compiled of one senior, three juniors, five sophomores, one freshman and two eighth graders. East Ridge is made up of four seniors, no juniors, four sophomores, three freshmen and two eighth graders. Both squads returned a number of key players from last year’s teams, however, each is also trying to replace their aces in the pitching circle this spring. Park lost two-year starting pitcher Cassie MacArthur to graduation. MacArthur was an All-Conference and All-Section pitcher for the Wolfpack. Sophomore Amber Galloway and junior Kennedy Henderson have stepped in in place of MacArthur this spring. East Ridge graduated its lights-out starting pitcher in Sam Gregory, along with backup pitcher and key hitter Alyssa Ronquillo. East Ridge has three sophomore pitchers this year and has relied mainly on two of them – Kelsey Ihns and Michaela Anderson to fill the void on the mound.
Ihns got the win over Park, allowing seven hits and three runs to improve to 4-1 on the year.
“Ihns pitched great,” Nemo said. “She’s not going to strikeout a lot of people, but she has a lot of pitches.”
For the Raptors, in addition to LeMay and Ihns, Maddie Christenson was 2-for-3 with an RBI, Courtney Keith was 2-for-2 and Roth was 1-for-4 with two RBI.
Galloway pitched well enough to win, but took the hard-luck loss for the Wolfpack.
“Amber pitched outstanding again - on back-to-back days none-the-less,” Loshek said. “She will keep getting stronger and stronger both physically and mentally and as she matures as a junior and senior we look for her to be that leader that you need in your pitchers.”
Park entered the game against East Ridge off a 12-1 thumping of rival Woodbury on Monday. Park took an early 1-0 lead in the game then did its damage after the third inning. The Wolfpack scored three runs in the third inning, three runs in the fourth inning and five runs in the fifth inning to 10-run the Royals.
In the first inning, Flack drilled a triple to score Suter. Then, in the top of the third inning, Turitto drilled a two-out, three-run homerun over the left field fence to put Park ahead 4-0.
“Mary struggled against (Woodbury pitcher Brooke Pantila) the first game against Woodbury as well as her first two at bats today. But one thing I do know is that Mary will make adjustments as was shown by the home run she hit,” Loshek said.
The Wolfpack got three more runs in the fifth inning when Mikayla Thiefoldt ripped a single up the middle to score both Henderson and Galloway, then, after stealing second base, was driven home by Suter to make it a 7-0 game.
In the top of the sixth Park scored five more runs, with the big blow coming off of the bat of Kayla Hemmingson as she laced a two-run double.
“We have been coming out and hitting the ball hard as of late,” Loshek said. “It is good to see that all of the girls’ hard work is paying off.”
Galloway didn’t walk a batter in the game, allowing six hits and one run for the win.
“Amber could not have pitched better,” Loshek said. “She was outstanding. With this being her first year on varsity, it takes some time getting used to all of the nuances that are associated with this level of play.”
Before beating Park, East Ridge was on a three-game losing streak after losing 8-6 to Forest Lake, 6-3 to Hastings and 5-0 to Mounds View. However, the Raptors followed up the win over the Wolfpack with another one – topping Spring Lake Park 3-1 in a non-conference game on Friday.
Anderson was the star of the game for East Ridge, allowing two hits while striking out 10 for the win.
“She’s a power pitcher,” Nemo said. “She’s cut down on her walks and done a nice job. She really shut them down.”
LeMay was 2-for-4 with a triple and a home run, Christenson was 2-for-2 and Roth was 2-for-4 with a run scored.
The win evened the Raptors’ record for the season.
“At the beginning of the year if someone would have told me we’d be .500 right now, I’d have taken that,” Nemo said. “But, I’m a little frustrated because the 7-7 record could easily be 10-4 or 11-3. We’ve been in every game. You always want to do better, but I’m happy.”