Lady Gladiators open district play with a 13-4 win over Itasca

Image: Kelsy Nelson(4) is proving to be a consistent offensive weapon for the Lady Gladiators as she attempts to score teammate Alyssa Richards(9) from third-base to help Italy secure a district opening win, 13-4 over Itasca.

Kelsy Nelson(4) is proving to be a consistent offensive weapon for the Lady Gladiators as she attempts to score teammate Alyssa Richards(9) from third-base to help Italy secure a district opening win, 13-4 over Itasca. (BARRY BYERS)

Itasca — The Itasca Lady Wampus Cats put up a fight early against the visiting Lady Gladiators from Italy to take a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first-inning. With two outs in the top of the second-inning, however, Italy’s Paige Westbrook scores form third with teammate Katie Byers recording a double to tie the game. With the bases loaded, Itasca gets the third out via a strikeout to keep the game tied.

In the bottom of the inning, Italy’s Bailey Eubank catches a popup at second-base for the first out. Byers fields a grounder at third and then throws to Eubank for a force out at second for the next out. Itasca gets caught in a rundown between second and third with Byers throwing to Westbrook, Italy’s shortstop, who makes the tag for the third out.

With the score still tied 1-run each, and with one out in the top of the third, Alyssa Richards hits a triple and is joined on the bases with Westbrook earning a walk to first-base. Unfortunately, Italy’s next two batters strikeout and Italy is unable to capitalize stranding two.

Pitcher Jaclynn Lewis leads off with a strikeout for Italy followed by a diving catch by Tara Wallis in right field for out number two. Byers covers a grounder hit to third and quickly fires to Breyanna Beets covering first base for the third out.

Now in the top of the fourth-inning, still tied 1-1, Italy’s first two batters strikeout but Eubank manages to slap a single as she sprints to first-base giving Italy a chance. Itasca solves that issue by tagging out a sliding Eubank as she tries to steal second for the third out.

Things unravel for Italy’s defense in the bottom of the fourth as one mistake compounds another allowing Itasca to load the bases and eventually take a 4-1 lead. Lewis records a strikeout to get Italy out of the jam.

The Lady Gladiators respond with Washington singling to centerfield to get the mid-game rally started. Lewis records a base hit between third and short to put two runners on base for Italy. Richards electrifies the back pasture as she hammers a double to score Washington. Itasca now leads 4-2 but Lewis is posed like a charging bull at third-base while Richards holds at second. Westbrook steps into the batters box a drills a grounder to second-base. Itasca takes the sure out at first but Westbrook manages to score Lewis from third, Itasca’s lead dwindles to a 4-3 advantage.

Kelsy Nelson returns to the plate and singles one past Itasca’s shortstop to score Richards from third-base which reties the ballgame 4-4. Byers follows Nelson’s effort with a ground ball that follows the white stripe of the first-base foul line until it hits the front of first-base. Byers reaches the first corner of the diamond after the foul-defying ball pops up over Itasca’s first baseman who made the mistake of trying to filed the grounder behind the bag. Two runners are on for Italy with Byers at first and Nelson who advanced all the way to third-base on the zany play.

In one of the biggest moments of the game, Lady Gladiator sophomore Tara Wallis(5) turns a grounder down the third-base line into an inside the park home run after the ball slips past Itasca’s third-baseman and then zips past the left fielder. Nelson scurries home form third and Byers scores from first followed by Wallis who crosses home plate standing up to give Italy back the lead, 7-4! Eubank tries to beat the throw to first after slapping the ball into play but the close call favors Itasca for the third out.

With Lewis still on the mound in the bottom of the fifth, Itasca rips a grounder back to the mound where Lewis makes the grab on her glove side and then tosses to Beets for the first out. Nelson hauls in a pop fly to left field for the second out. Itasca singles to put a runner on. Moments later, the Lady Wampus Cat base runner, attempting to steal, beats an overthrow at second and keeps going to steal third as well. The relay in to third is collected by Lewis near the Cats’ dugout to hold the runner at third-base. A grounder to third is fielded by Byers who throws to Beets at first-base for the third out.

Italy’s first batter in the top of the sixth strikes out but Lewis is walked to give only a runner on base with one out. Up next, Richards strides toward the plate as an ominous hush waves across Itasca’s fans. They know. And Richards delivers with a 2-run inside the park homerun with Itasca’s center fielder deflecting the burner off the top of her outstretched glove. Richards slides into home as Italy goes up 9-4 with the daylight fading fast on Itasca.

Westbrook sends a fly ball into centerfield as well but this time Itasca makes the grab for the second out. Nelson hits a shot past Itasca’s third baseman to reach first but Byers grounds out for the third out.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Cats’ lead off with a single. Itasca hits again but Westbrook fields the ball from her shortstop position and throws to Eubank at second for the force out, one down. A grounder to the mound allows Lewis to turn and throw to Eubank at second for the next out. Eubank is quick with a throw to Beets at first-base for the double-play which earns Italy a trip back to the dugout to grab their bats.

Wallis is walked to start the seventh-inning. Beets sends a fly ball into centerfield but the catch is made for out number one. With Eubank battling at the plate, Wallis steals second. Eubank strikes out but Washington follows with a single to score Wallis from second, 10-4 Italy leads. Lewis keeps it going with a triple that reaches the right field fence to score Washington from first, 11-4 Italy. Richards pours it on with a double to right field to score Lewis from third and Italy now leads 12-4. Westbrook gets on with a walk, Richards takes third and Nelson line drives one into the left field gap scoring Westbrook. Italy goes up 13-4 before Itasca collects their third out.

Itasca tries to rally with back-to-back hits into right field but the game is officially called due to darkness. The Lady Gladiators win their 2013 district opener 13-4 over the Itasca Lady Wampus Cats.

Go Lady Gladiators!