EDGINGTON — It does not always have to be about throwing the hardest fastball and striking out the most batters. Sometimes, softball can be about pitching to contact and letting the defense work.
That is exactly the plan the Moline Maroons softball team brings into their games, and it worked to perfection against the Rockridge Rockets on Wednesday. Three Moline pitchers combined to allow 11 hits and strike out three, but the defense did its job and the Maroons won 3-2.
"Our plan is to let the defense work," Moline coach Mark Gerlach said. It has worked well so far, Moline is now 8-2. "Our pitchers were great again. We don't have pitchers who strike a lot of people out, so we want them to throw strikes and get outs by fielding the ball.
"Last year, we walked way too many batters and got hurt by that. That we are not walking many is huge for us."
Rockridge had two or more hits in four innings, scoring in just one of those innings.
"I don't know if we have had many games where we lost when we had 11 hits," Rockridge coach John Nelson said after watching his club strand eight runners. "We are usually very good at getting timely hits, but credit Moline, they made some big plays."
The biggest plays came in the first inning.
After Moline got two first-inning runs, helped by two wild pitches and a sacrifice fly, the Rockets (6-2) started the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles and a walk. However, Moline catcher Sydney Jensen gunned down two runners trying to steal and the Rockets came up empty.
"That first inning was huge," Gerlach said. "We ran the bases well and picked up two runs and then (Jensen) made a couple of really good throws that got us out of a jam."
Added Nelson, "We were trying to be aggressive against all the changeups Moline likes to throw. We wanted to run on them, but they figured us out and caught us.
"I told the girls after the game that there are so many positives out of this game. We lost to these guys last year and it helped us out in the end. This is a loss on the scoreboard, but I think it will wind up winning a lot more down the road."
One area where Gerlach was puzzled about was the Moline bats. The Maroons had scored at least eight runs in eight of their first nine games, though he did like the approach of center fielder Cierra McNamee. She had a sacrifice fly in the first, an RBI single in the third and another hit in the fifth.
"Cierra is really a good hitter, and she is on top of her game right now," Gerlach said. "I really like this group because our pitchers are keeping us in games and we are going to hit."