A hometown newspaper with a local office, local owners & lots of local news

Raptors, Esko softball battle to the bitter end

Local softball rivals kept it interesting on a rainy afternoon Saturday. After trailing Carlton/Wrenshall 7-2 through three innings, Esko scratched and clawed its way back to take an 8-7 win.

Esko wasted little time in gaining an advantage and went up 2-0 in the bottom of the first inning with both Avery Kuklinski and Bailey Plante scoring runs.

"Esko got the jump on us in the first inning, but we were able to bounce back in the second," said Raptors assistant coach Anna George.

Kennedy Siiter and Maddie Asleson both scored runs in the top of the second. After holding Esko scoreless in the bottom of the second, the Raptors got a big play from Abby Mitchell, who smashed a three-run homer after two other runs had already been plated and C/W pushed its lead to 7-2.

"Right after Mitchell's homerun, the rain started coming down hard," said Esko coach Huff Emanuel. "There was a pretty lengthy delay, and it was finally decided that the game would continue, which meant we had to get to work and get the field back in shape. We did just that, and finally we were able to get the full game in."

After nearly an hour of rain delay, the Eskomos started a slow methodical comeback. In the bottom of the fifth, Esko got a run from Hannah Swanson, who reached on a single against the tough-throwing Mitchell.

"Mitchell was tough on us early because we didn't stay off the riseball," said Emanuel. "Once we made her bring the ball down, we started to square the ball up and the hits started dropping for us."

Trailing 7-3 entering the bottom of the sixth, Esko added runs by Swanson, Alayna Peterson and Kiera Leach and cut the gap to 7-6.

"I thought Abby was throwing well, but we weren't getting the high strike, and that meant we had to bring the ball down and Esko started putting the ball in play," George said. "We didn't make some plays on defense and that also proved to be a bit costly."

Lizzie Hartlieb scored the game-tying run in the bottom of the seventh, which set up the heroics in the eighth for Esko. Peterson led off with a base hit and eventually was lifted for pinch runner Emma Adkins. With one out and Adkins on third base, Raegen Olson lifted a sacrifice fly to the outfield, allowing Adkins to slide home with the winning run.

Kuklinski, Swanson, Peterson and Leach all had three hits for Esko. Leach came in to pitch in the second inning with two outs and fanned seven in 5 1/3 innings of work to pick up the victory.

Esko improved to 5-3 on the season while the Raptors are now 2-2.