LAND O’ LAKES — Runs are something to be cherished whenever River Ridge and Land O’ Lakes square off in softball.
Take the opening game of the series last season. The Royal Knights scored a run, a cause for celebration considering that snapped a 26-inning scoreless streak against their rival. It also turned to be all they needed to win.
So when River Ridge’s Keira Wierzbowski singled in Victoria Nearing in the first inning, it provided what could have been a strong enough cushion in games that are typically close, low-scoring affairs.
After all, one run usually is enough support for Royal Knights ace Melanie Rogers, who had allowed just two earned runs all season.
Stiil, it was not enough for River Ridge coach Kurt Goluba to feel too comfortable.
“Against Land O’ Lakes (7-2) I’m never going to relax until I see a few more runs on the scoreboard,” Goluba said.
He was able to breathe a little easier in the fifth when the Royal Knights tacked on six more runs en route to a 7-0 win.
“Every time we come here I'm expecting something low, 2-1, 1-0, 3-2,” Goluba said. “I would have never predicted this kind of score, especially with the pitcher we were facing.”
River Ridge (8-1) got 11 hits off Gators ace Callie Turner, who has already signed with Tennessee.
Nearing, a freshman, had three of them.
“I went in knowing that I could hit and tried my best not to be in awe of her,” Nearing said of Turner. “It took that first hit to really get the confidence going.”
Rogers did her part, finishing with a five-hit shutout and recording three strikeouts.
Last year, the teams split their four games. The Royal Knights won the Class 6A, District 7 tournament, only to watch Land O’ Lakes come back to win the region semifinal before reaching the state championship game for a second straight season.
That is why Rogers does not want to get too excited about taking over first place in the district this early in the season.
“It’s amazing to be at the top right now,” Rogers said. “But we’re not going to let up. We’re going to keep fighting every game.”