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Rebels roll, bat around Bombers

Dave Harwig/ 1 / 4
Moose Lake-Willow River sophomore Suzy Grutkoski hits a ball to right field during Tuesday afternoon's softball game against Barnum. Grutkoski drove in 3 RBIs and scored four runs in the Rebels’ 24-1 victory. Dave Harwig/ 2 / 4
Barnum senior Brittany Baier puts a ball in play during Tuesday afternoon's softball game against Moose Lake-Willow River. Dave Harwig/ 3 / 4
Moose Lake-Willow River junior Ally Bode throws a pitch against Barnum during Tuesday's softball game. Bode pitched struck out seven, walked two and gave up no earned runs in the five-inning affair . Dave Harwig/ 4 / 4

Playing softball as long as she can remember, Suzy Grutkoski admitted some of her most enjoyable times have come in the dugout when she and her Moose Lake-Willow River teammates hit all the way through their batting order.

"I love it when that happens," the sophomore shortstop said.

Batting around happened early and often for the host Rebels Tuesday, as Moose Lake-Willow River rolled over their lineup in two different innings en route to beating Barnum 24-1 in a five-inning, mercy-rule Polar League contest on a gusty, sunny afternoon in Willow River.

The brightest part of the fair-weathered day came in the home half of the first and third innings, when the Rebels ran through coach Kelly Goeb's roster card in each frame, sending an abundance of batters to the plate and many then back across it to score. All in all, ML-WR scored nine runs in the first and a dozen more in the third, sandwiching three more in the second.

A lot of their run-piling innings came via the struggles of the Bombers in the circle, as senior Jaden Lind walked five and hit four batters ― including Grutkoski in the Rebels' first at-bat of the game ― while classmate Emma Koski came on for relief in the third only to walk seven and plunk another. In total, Barnum awarded 17 free bases and 24 unanswered runs following their 1-0 lead in the top of the first.

"It was just one of those days," admitted Bombers coach Dustin Collello.

"We thought it'd be a much closer game than it was," added Goeb.

In addition to the Bombers' lack of effectiveness on the rubber, Grutkoski and ML-WR junior teammates Ally Bode and Nicole Newham were productive at the plate, combining for seven hits, nine runs scored and 13 runs batted in. Bode, Goeb's daughter, was also the game's winning pitcher, striking out seven in going the distance despite not being 100 percent since having a pin removed from her previously broken foot in January.

"They're starting to come around," said Goeb, whose Rebels are now 3-2. "We had a couple of losses early on, so I think this one helps pick their spirits up. Hopefully we can continue to move forward."

Collelo agreed with his group, as prior to their ML-WR mishaps, Barnum scored 81 runs in a four-game winning streak. Of their three hits Tuesday, junior Bailey Wheeler had a single, while sophomore Emily Miletich and senior Kamille Korpela cracked doubles. Korpela’s hit actually scored the Bombers' lone run when it plated freshman Mallory Agurkis for the game's first run.

"Tomorrow is a new day," said Collello, whose 4-2 team hosts another Polar League rival, Esko, Thursday afternoon (April 28). "Hopefully we continue to compete. We just fell so far behind [Tuesday]."

Grutkoski noted that although their opponents had their tough times Tuesday, she and her teammates took advantage offensively when the time was right, creating their long-lasting innings.

"We were able to hold off on the not so good [pitches] and get the good ones," said the right-handed leadoff hitter. "I don't remember which inning it was, but there was at least one where I think we all batted twice. The whole dugout just kept getting excited. It was a game we played how we play and it felt good to get back into that."

If that continues, Grutkoski is optimistic about their chances come late May.

"Our goal still is state and we all believe we can get there," she said of a program that hasn't been to state since 1982. "We just have to keep working our butts off."

"It's early," added Goeb, never looking too far ahead. "It felt good to get a win under our belts. Hopefully we just keep building and getting better."

And batting around.