Next door neighbors Moose Lake-Willow River and Barnum hooked up in high school softball last Thursday with the Rebels coming away with 15-8 slugfest win over the Bombers.
Thursday's game was tight until the fifth inning when the Rebels pushed five runs across to grab a 12-6 lead.
"It was a good competitive game with Moose Lake-Willow River," said Barnum coach Dustin Collelo. "We haven't been able to compete with them for a while so that was a positive for us."
While the Bombers were hoping to be stronger against the Rebels than they have in recent years, ML-WR continues to build towards what they hope will be a strong playoff run much like last year when the Rebels finished as runners-up to Esko in the Section 7AA tournament.
"Overall, I think our team is really getting into a rhythm and continues to improve as the season progresses," said Rebels coach Kelly Goeb. "Our goal is to be playing our best ball when playoffs come around. Our hitters are all coming around — shown by the fact that every player had at least one hit in the game against Barnum."
As the Rebels were pounding out 24 hits against Barnum's seventh-grade pitcher Mendota Castonguay, the Bombers were also hitting the ball well against Rebels sophomore Lilli Skelton.
"Mendota has pitched every inning for us so far this year as a seventh-grader," said Collelo. "We knew going in that ML-WR was going to be one of the best hitting teams she would face this year, but she gave us a chance and that is all we are asking of her at this point."
Meanwhile the Rebels, who have the luxury of having three pitchers, decided to make a pitching change in the last two innings.
"We had decided prior to the fifth inning, when we scored five runs, to have Ally (Bode) finish off the game as the Barnum hitters were hitting of Lilli pretty well," Goeb said. "We were hoping to put Laura Walker in to pitch a bit, but she tweaked her knee earlier in the game so she needed a break."
The Rebels had a multitude of hitters who had big numbers in the game including Dallis Kukuk who was 4-for-6 with three doubles, Bode was 4-for-5 five with two runs and two RBIs, and Josie Benzie, who was 4-for-5 with three RBIs. Lauren Pederson, Marissa Mikrot, Sage Gerard, Jamie Benzie and Nicole Newham all had two hits each and Laura Walker added a triple.
For the Bombers, Fallon Hartman had two hits, scored twice and added an RBI. Kylee Bergquist had a pair of hits and Meghan Kaspszak had two RBIs and a stolen base.
"Both teams hit the ball very well and their shortstop, Dallis Kukuk, made some outstanding plays to stop a couple of potential rallies for us," recalled Collelo. "We left girls on second and third base in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings so we had chances to tighten the game up. Against a good team like Moose Lake-Willow River, we needed to take advantage of those situations and unfortunately we made a few plays on defense that are outside our norm that allowed them to score a few more runs as well."
The Rebels are a tournament-tested team and their batting lineup is tough to defend against because they have depth that few Class AA schools in northern Minnesota can match. The fact that the Rebels can also sling the leather on defense makes them a formidable foe come sectional tournament time in two weeks.
"As far as hitting goes, we really didn't have a standout against Barnum as our entire order was strong," Goeb said. "Defensively, I give a nod over to Dallis (Kukuk) because she has stepped into the shortstop position and has had some amazing plays from diving catches to throwing runners out deep in the hole. The left side of the infield is new this year, with Lauren Pederson moving to third from the outfield and Kukuk to shortstop. They are really showing their strengths as the season moves on which is great to see!"
The Rebels are now 8-5 on the season, while the Bombers are now 5-2.