Saile, Land O'Lakes manhandle River Ridge
LAND O' LAKES — As locked in as Land O'Lakes senior pitcher Shannon Saile was, she had competition on Thursday night.
It came from the entire Gator batting order. Saile threw a one-hitter and struck out 12, while the Gators (13-2-1) rapped out 15 hits in a surprisingly lopsided 15-1 win over River Ridge. The game ended after 4 1/2 innings due to the mercy rule.
"That's a special night," said Land O'Lakes coach Mitch Wilkins. "Against a good team like River Ridge, you don't expect that. But we were really focused tonight."
Sophomore Brianna Lindner went 3-for-3 with three RBIs to lead the Gators, who convincingly nabbed the top seed for the Class 6A, District 7 tournament. River Ridge (9-4) was determined to make up for an 8-1 defeat in the Feb. 23 meeting, a game that saw the Gators jump ahead 8-0 after two innings.
It wasn't as quick a start Thursday, but the 3-0 first-inning cushion was plenty enough for Saile, who now has 132 strikeouts in 67 1/3 innings.
"She has been a beast," said Wilkins.
River Ridge freshman Jessica Bryson, leadoff batter and normally a slap hitter, supplied the only hit in stunning fashion when she obliterated a fastball over the rightfield fence. That cut the margin to 4-1 in the top of the third, and when centerfielder Paige Theede made a tough running catch to strand two runners in the bottom half, it looked like the Knights (9-4) might rally.
But Saile struck out the side in the top of the fourth, then the bats went to town. Jessie McCallister got things going with an infield single, and after a flyout the next eight batters reached. Lindner and Saile both had two-RBI hits and Shelby Westbrook, limited to mostly pinch-running — she leads the Gators with 10 steals and scored three times Thursday — got her first hit of the season.
River Ridge helped out with four errors. Westbrook came all the way around on her RBI single thanks to a bad throw, three runs scoring on the play for the final margin. And the first two Gator runs came home on an errant throw.
Tia Williams had two hits to lift her team-high average to .440. Kendall Tipton and Ashley Smith also finished with two hits and Gabby Santiago reached base three times.
Bryson, who had never homered at any level, drew one of two first-inning walks from Saile. Anessa Holes was the only other Knights player to reach base. Allysa Lyons provided the other Knights highlight by snagging a hard-hit liner by McCallister and turning it into a double play.