Showing their ‘chill’, No.3 Stars rally late, early for sweep of Silver Creek and Avon

BNL’s Ava Ratliff connects for a home run during Saturday’s clash with Avon. Ratliff and the Stars posted wins over Silver Creek and Avon during the split doubleheader.

By Justin Sokeland

BEDFORD – Whether it was the last inning or the first, no deficit was too daunting for Bedford North Lawrence.

Twice, the No.3 Stars fell behind early. Twice, they rallied. Twice, they won, sweeping a two-team doubleheader with plucky Silver Creek and dangerous Avon during a wind-whipped, what-happened-to-Spring? afternoon.

In the opening game, BNL battled back from a worrisome 5-0 hole to edge the Dragons 7-6 on Aliza Jewell’s walk-off two-run double. After retreating indoors for warmth while Avon clipped Silver Creek 11-10 in the middle game of the tripleheader at BNL Field, the Stars erased Avon’s early 2-0 lead to conquer the Orioles 8-2 as Ava Ratliff powered the Stars (6-1) to the Saturday sweep.

As the temperatures plummeted, as the fierce wind threatened to freeze exposed body parts, BNL heated up. The Stars fought back with 11 hits to subdue Silver Creek (2-2), they erupted for five runs in the first (with Tori Nikirk smoking a two-run single during the rally) to erase Avon’s early advantage and added power blasts from Ratliff to extend the lead.

“There was no point where we felt nervous or scared,” BNL coach Brad Gilbert said. “There was no panic. We would have our chances. Just play hard for two hours and block out the weather. We did that all day.“

BNL’s Braxton McCauley celebrates with teammate Tori Nikirk after scoring a run.

In the opener, there was a reason for concern. The Dragons spewed some fire as the first three batters all scored. Carsyn Sidebottom doubled to left, Lily Allen followed with a RBI single, and Macy Ferrell blasted a home run to center. In the second, with two outs, Sidebottom singled, Allen reached on an error, and she later scored on the back end of a double steal. Not exactly the sharpest of starts for the Stars.

“We started out a little slow, gave them some runs,” Gilbert said. “The good thing is we learned our lesson. We can say ‘Look what happened.’ We didn’t really play aggressive on defense, made some mistakes and got in a hole. The positive thing is we battled and never gave up, never quit and got the win.”

After scoring a run in the second, BNL’s comeback got serious in the third. Haleigh Canada reached on an infield single, Lauryn Anderson stroked a single to right, and Ratliff thumped a RBI single to right. Anderson later scored on Braxton McCauley’s ground out.

In the fifth, Anderson singled to center and Ratliff launched a home run to center to make it 6-5. That set the stage for the BNL seventh. Ratliff led off with a single and Annie Waggoner walked. After both pinch runners advanced, Jewell jumped on the first pitch from Tessa Gibson to rifle the game-winning double to right.

BNL pitcher Annie Waggoner snags a pop-up to record an out. Waggoner improved to 4-0 in the circle.

“Everyone was talking about how she was throwing inside, and that’s my pitch,” Jewell said. “It was the first pitch, and that’s what I was looking for.”

Ratliff had three hits and 3 RBIs, while Anderson, Jewell and Kendall Graves had two hits each. Jewell (2-1) earned the win in the circle, allowing 8 hits with four strikeouts.

“We didn‘t really panic,” Jewell said. “We know we can get out of those situations. I knew we would fight through it.”

In the second game, Avon (2-1) jumped on top when Mandy Lauth pounded a two-out home run to center. Once again, BNL answered. Anderson and Ratliff set the table, McCauley was plunked in the back by a pitch to load the bases, and Jewell walked on four pitches for the first run. Pinch runner Britta Warren raced home on a wild pitch, Haley Davis plated a run with a ground out, and Nikirk sizzled her two-run single to cap the outburst.

In the second, Anderson doubled and Ratliff crashed her homer to center to make it 7-2. In the sixth, Ratliff rammed a triple off the fence in right-center and Waggoner laced a RBI single to cap the scoring.

“We could have come out flat,” Gilbert said. “Annie pitched really well, we played really good defense, and we hit.”

BNL’s Tori Nikirk reaches down to snag a ground ball at third base.

Ratliff, Jewell, Graves and Nikirk all had two hits. Waggoner (4-0) went the distance, totaling 11 strikeouts. Ratliff, after setting a school record with a state-leading 21 homers last season, got her first two of the year. Prediction – won’t be the last two.

“I try not to hit home runs,” Ratliff said. “I just try to keep the game simple. If I go up there trying to hit a home run, I will get nervous and it will go downhill from there. It will be bad if I tried that.”

The wins were also impressive when considering the tough conditions. There was no escape from the wind chill.

“Everything is numb right now,” Jewell said. “You just have to play through it.”

“I just tried not to think about it,” Ratliff said. “We don’t go down easy. We fight until the end.”

Avon won the middle game 11-10 over Silver Creek. The Dragons rumbled to an 8-0 lead, but the Orioles clubbed three homers in the fifth to draw even at 8-8, and added another home run to take the lead in the sixth.

BNL extended its winning streak to five straight.

“I felt like a lot of players got better,” Gilbert said. “We were close to cancelling, and have everyone sitting at home, and we wouldn’t have gotten better. I feel like, leaving here, that we got a lot better.”

The Stars will host Brownstown on Monday.

BNL’s Kendall Graves had two hits in both games on Saturday.