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Bulldogs nip Hilltoppers in conference softball opener

GLENWOOD CITY  —  Having to battle the weather as well as each other, Boyceville and Glenwood City opened their respective Dunn-St. Croix softball schedules against one another at Glenwood City’s Memorial Field last Tuesday, April 7.

Glenwood City was able to build a 4 to 1 lead through four innings of action as the Hilltoppers’ starting pitcher senior Leslie Ludtke was able to limit Boyceville’s offensive opportunities.

But the Bulldogs’ bats finally awoke in the final three frames, with some help from the long ball, as they scored six runs including three in the fifth inning to edge the Hilltoppers 7 to 6 in a full seven-inning contest that was played in cold and rainy conditions.

The win gave Boyceville a 3-0 and 1-0 mark in conference action while Glenwood City fell to 0-2 and 0-1.

“We were ahead going into the fifth inning and playing good sound ball,” said Glenwood City coach Pete Gaustad. “But then their bats came alive. Boyceville scored three in that inning to tie it and put some pressure on us.”

Boyceville’s offense, which was a bit stagnant through the first four innings of play with just a pair of hits and a run, sprang to life in the top of the fifth inning.

Kayla Nelson’s two-run home run sparked the Bulldogs’ rally.

With no outs and Jenna Beyrer on first, Nelson sent a 0-1 Ludtke pitch over the fence to pull the Bulldogs to within a run at 4-3.

Lexi Peterson then drew a walk and Brooklynn Blaser singled off Ludtke to bring Peterson to home plate with the game-tying run.

Ludtke finally settle down to retire the Boyceville side getting Madysn Riek to fly out to center, and Rachal Anderson and Maddy Bygd to hit into infield ground outs.

“It was an exciting game that involved back and forth scoring,” noted Jamie Olson, Boyceville’s head coach.

Nikki Gabbert would help the Hilltoppers retake the lead, 5-4,  in their bottom half of the fifth.

The Glenwood City senior smacked a double, advanced to third on a Boyceville error and scored when Hannah Ludtke laced a one-out single to left field.

Boyceville would answer the scoring bell in the top of the sixth by plating two more runs to take  its first lead of the game.

Bulldogs’ pitcher Katie Kegen helped out her own cause with a lead-off double in the Boyceville sixth.

After Peyton Hellmann flew out to right, Jenna Beyrer drew a walk off Toppers’ hurler Leslie Ludtke – a free pass that would come back to haunt Ludtke. Kayla Nelson and Lexi Peterson followed with back-to-back singles to drive in both Kegen and Beyrer for 6-5 advantage.

“We were able to take the lead in the fifth on a two-run home run by Kayla Nelson and added a couple more in the sixth,” stated Olson.

After Kegen shut out the Toppers in the sixth, the Bulldogs added an insurance run in the top of the seventh when senior Rachal Anderson went school yard with a lead-off solo-shot. Anderson’s home-run dinger gave Boyceville a 7-5 edge.

The Bulldogs needed Anderson’s shot as the Hilltoppers tried to rally for the win or force extra innings in their final at-bat.

Nikki Gabbert drew a lead-off walk against reliever Rachal Anderson. She then advanced to second on a wild pitch and took third on a passed ball.

Hannah Ludtke then connected for a single to bring Gabbert home and pull the Hilltoppers to within a run at 7-6.

But that is how it ended as Kegen got Kenzie Kruze to fly out and Megan Samens and Carlee Strong to strike out.

“We were ahead going into the fifth inning, playing good sound ball,” noted GC coach Pete Gaustad, “But then Boyceville’s bats came alive and they scored three in that inning to tie it and put some pressure on us. That same inning we came back with one to get the lead back but it just seemed we knew they were ready to hit.”

“Boyceville can hit the ball. They were very solid in contact and hit the gaps,” added Gaustad. “Giving up the two homers hurt. The homer by Nelson was a tough one to take. Our heads were down a bit after that hit.”

Boyceville finished with 11 hits while Glenwood City tallied ten.

Glenwood City appeared ready to blow open the game in the fourth inning.

The Hilltoppers were able to draw a pair of one-out walks to put two runners on the bases in their half of the fourth inning. Becca Moll then belted a double to score two runs. Carlee Strong followed with a single and Jenesa Klinger was hit by a Kegen pitch to load the bases.

But a base running error cost the Toppers two outs and the possibility of another run  or two.

“In the fourth we were ready to open the flood gates but Boyceville made the plays and we stranded the bases loaded,” said Gaustad. “We need to get those runs in. Leaving nine on for the game is something we cannot continue to do. We have to capitalize when the opportunities arise.”

“We made some big defensive plays in key situations that kept us in the game,”admitted Olson.

“Overall, I thought both teams played well despite the cold, rainy weather,” concluded Olson.

Lexi Peterson, Brooklynn Blaser and Katie Kegen each had a pair of hits for Boyceville but it was the home runs by Nelson and Anderson that keyed Bulldogs’ rally.

Carlee Strong and Hannah Ludtke each had two hits for the Toppers while six others had singles.

Rachal Anderson was the victor after surrendering just a run on two hits in two innings of work. Katie Kegen went five surrendering five runs and eights hits. Leslie Ludtke suffered the loss after giving up 11 hits and five walks.