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Northwestern holds off late North Miami rally

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REPEAT: North Miami’s Marlie Halterman takes a routine catch at first base for an out during Wednesday night’s non-conference softball game against 2A No. 7 Northwestern. Halterman scored the first Warrior run in the sixth inning on a bases clearing double by Allie Miller but could not find the runs to catch the Tigers in a 5-4 loss.
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RUN-IN: North Miami’s Maryann Freeman gets under an infield fly made more difficult than normal due to strong winds during Wednesday night’s non-conference softball game against Northwestern. Freeman knocked in the final Warrior run but it was one short of tying the Tigers, who left with a 5-4 win.

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

Just as in Tuesday night’s game against Oak Hill, North Miami’s softball team found itself down five runs entering the sixth inning against 2A No. 7 Northwestern.

The Warriors nearly made it all the way back by the seventh but came up a run short in a 5-4 loss to the Tigers, a loss amplified by a significant injury as the last out was recorded.

North Miami head coach Rob Cooley said the team ran into a similar problem from the prior game and ran into the same result.

“Unfortunately, there wasn’t a whole lot different from the previous night,” Cooley said. “We got in the same scenario where we put some runs on the board late.

“We had a chance to tie the game but we just couldn’t plate that final run.”

Northwestern’s Ellie Boyer singled with one out in the top of the first and Morgan Walker drew a walk to put two runners on.

Ady Altman laid down a sac bunt to advance the runners while Jaylyn Harrison drew a walk to load the bases and Jaci Elson drew a third walk to force Boyer in for a 1-0 Tiger lead.

Lackman was able to alleviate the pressure with a strikeout to ensure no more runners came in.

Another walk to start the second to Alivia Hughes led to Northwestern’s second run when Kendal Rooze doubled to double the lead.

“Giving up a lead early weighed a lot on the girls,” Cooley said about giving away another early lead. “We always talk about getting an early run behind our pitcher because that helps them.

“It’s a carryover from the last game. Once the first runs came across, they were feeling the pressure.”

Rooze, in the circle for the visitors, used her control to keep the hosts off balance according to Cooley.

“(Rooze) was hitting the outside corner quite a bit,” Cooley noted. “Early on, we had a couple no-look strike outs and others leaning in trying to hit that pitch.

“We talked to the ladies about hitting little line drives and not trying to hit the ball deep. We did get on her but it wasn’t until late.”

A pair of quiet innings followed with North Miami getting its first runner into scoring position into fourth but no change occurred in the score until the fifth.

Altman reached on an error and ended up at second, scoring when Elson dropped a ball in-between defenders for a 3-0 lead.

The lead grew to 5-0 in the sixth when Hughes led off with a walk, Rooze singled to move the runner over and, with two outs, Walker dropped another fly ball just beyond the Warrior defense, plating both runners.

Much like Tuesday, North Miami’s rally began in the bottom half of the inning as Marlie Halterman singled and Hannah Hall reached on an error.

Strikeouts to Maryann Freeman and Taylor Tinney put the rally in doubt but Lackman drew a walk and Allie Miller smacked a double to clear the bases.

A ground out ended the inning but gave the hosts hope going into the seventh trailing 5-3.

“Allie’s beautiful line drive got our confidence up a bit,” Cooley said about the sixth inning score. “The girls were starting to feed off each other once that happened.”

The Tigers did not add to the lead in the top half of the inning and Bailey Keim got things going in the bottom of the seventh with a one-out single.

Halterman popped up to second but Hall drew a walk to bring up Freeman, who singled to center field, bringing Keim in to score.

Hall moved up to second but hesitated while the throw to home came in, eventually deciding to go for third.

A quick throw from Elson behind the plate meant the visitors got the final out while, in attempting to slide wide of the bag, Hall suffered a significant lower body injury which required medical transport after the game.

The loss sets North Miami back to 1-2 in the early season and Cooley said there was something not quite right since the return from spring break.

“We talked to the girls tonight and flat out asked what they did to adjust last night,” Cooley said. “We tried to figure out what they were struggling with and how they adjusted but there wasn’t much that was done.

“We asked what they wanted to see tonight because we work every scenario that we possibly can as far as making adjustments. I can’t put my finger on it and hopefully a slow walkthrough at practice (Thursday) will help.”

North Miami will face A No. 1 Pioneer and A No. 5 Morgan Township Saturday in a three-way doubleheader.

Cooley already anticipated being shorthanded for the trip to Morgan Township before Hall’s injury and said whoever fills the spot would be thrown right in to the deep in against two high-quality teams.

“It’s going to be very hard to replace Hannah,” Cooley said. “She’s an All-Conference player, one of the best third basemen in the conference and a good bat in our lineup.

“We’ve got a couple different options, one that’s probably better than the other, but it’s still going to put us out of position for that particular athlete. I think we’ll be okay even though we’ll be down a little bit and our goal is to get the next girl ready by getting her as many reps as possible.”