Midgettes' offense lights up Ashland
Jason Juno/Daily Globe
Hurley’s Tianne Kuula swings during Tuesday’s non-conference game against Ashland at Northland College in Ashland.
ASHLAND, Wis. — Ashland sent out an email to a bunch of teams Tuesday trying to find an opponent because it had a rare commodity — a playable field on a nice day.
Unfortunately for Ashland, Hurley was the team that jumped on the chance.
The Midgettes’ bats came alive as Hurley beat the Oredockers 18-7 on a warm Tuesday.
The Northland College field was ready for action and both Hurley and Ashland were happy to be able to get another game in — even though it wasn’t scheduled until early Tuesday afternoon — in this ugliest of springs. It was a good move on the Midgettes’ part as they took early control of the game with an 8-0 lead and finished the game with 16 hits.
“I think what’s helping is just playing games,” Hurley manager Jim Kivisto said of Hurley’s offense. “The more games you play, the more comfortable you’re going to feel with the bat. They’re slowing getting it.”
With a winter storm watch in effect for tonight and Thursday, who knows when the next opportunity will be. Hurley lost 2-1 at Rhinelander Friday, went 1-2 Saturday in Gilman and picked up an 11-run win Tuesday.
“Our defense has been OK. Our pitching has been OK,” Kivisto said. “When we’ve been getting people in scoring position, we haven’t even been putting the ball in play. Today was by far the best we’ve hit the ball all year. It was good to see.”
The Midgettes set the tone offensively early with a big five-run first inning.
No. 2 hitter Gabby Pecotte put down a nice bunt to move Athena Butkiewicz, who led off with a single, to second. The throw from the catcher wasn’t caught and both runners were safe.
Sam Ofstad, who was a surprise entry in the lineup after just getting hurt Saturday, took advantage with a two-run single.
The next two Hurley batters went out, but Hurley kept the inning going with two outs.
Dana Brown and Kirkie Pecotte single and later scored to give Hurley a 5-0 lead. Four of those runs were unearned because of the error on the bunt two batters into the game.
The Midgettes took advantage of most every scoring opportunity while Ashland left the bases loaded in the first inning without scoring any runs. Ashland left 12 runners on base.
“To start the first inning and give up four unearned runs is not a good way to start,” Ashland manager Tim Hicks said. “I got to give them credit, they get their bats on the ball. That’s basically what they did. I didn’t think they hit the ball any harder than we do. In fact, I think we hit the ball a little harder. We’re improving. We’re getting better.”
The Midgettes scored three runs in the third inning. Butkiewicz and Gabby Pecotte both had RBI singles.
The runs kept coming for Hurley. Brittany Czarnecki and Butkiewicz drove in runs in the fourth inning. Maria Swartz had a sacrifice fly in the fifth and Butkiewicz had one in the sixth.
Hurley tacked on six runs in the seventh.
“Everybody got a chance to play and everybody came in and did their job. It was nice to see,” Kivisto said.
Butkiewicz finished with four RBIs from the leadoff spot, Maria Swartz drove in two runs off the bench and Gabby Pecotte also drove in two runs.
Ofstad hit in the third spot and was 2 for 3 with two walks. She also reached on an error and would have been on base six times, but Ashland shortstop Kaela Huber leaped for a nice catch. It was the second consecutive nice play she made in the second inning.
Kivisto said Tuesday was the best Ofstad hit the ball this year after a slow start.
“I got on her because she wasn’t hitting the ball,” Kivisto said. “I made a little adjustment with where she was putting her hands on the bat. She came today and just did great for me.”
Kivisto said he didn’t plan to play her after injuring her ankle over the weekend when she was hit by a pitch. She clearly wasn’t worried about the injury when she ran and dove past second base for a highlight catch in the sixth inning.
The Midgettes gave Ashland a look at both of their 1a and 1b pitchers. Brittany Czarnecki started and went four innings, picking up the win. Czarnecki finished the game with four strikeouts and gave up a three-run third inning that included a home run by Huber.
Butkiewicz finished and only gave up one hit in her first two innings. Ashland put up four runs in the seventh, though, stringing four hits together with a Hurley error.
Butkiewicz struck out the final batter to end the threat.
She also struck out the last batter of the fifth inning and Kivisto greeted her back to the dugout with this message:
“That was great pitching.”
“We called three different pitches, she executed all three of them perfectly,” he said. “The last one was a just a beautiful changeup. It just floated over perfectly. It froze the batter.”
Kivisto said it’s nice to have two pitchers.
“You never know. If one’s having an off night, you can always go back to another,” Kivisto said. “The thing with Athena playing the outfield, she really helps with defense. Both girls are doing a great job.”
Freshman Brooke Westland took the complete-game loss for Ashland.
Hurley is scheduled to go to Mellen for a doubleheader Thursday.
Hurley 5 0 3 2 1 1 6 — 18 16 4
Ashland 0 0 3 0 0 0 4 — 7 9 8