THREE OAKS — It took extra innings to decide the April 13 season-opening softball showdown between River Valley and New Buffalo.
A pitching duel between Bison hurler Ava Mullen and RV’s Macey Springer (both sophomores) lasted nine innings before a hit and a bunt produced the decisive run that left the final tally 4-3 in the host Mustangs’ favor.
River Valley coach Dan Schaser told his players the victory was “something to be proud of.”
“Those are the games you look forward o coaching after two years basically. It was a fun game,” he said.
River Valley scratched out a run in the second inning when Alexis McCarty walked, stole her way to third base and came home on a passed ball.
That narrow 1-0 advantage lasted until the fifth frame when New Buffalo pulled even. Aaron James was safe at second after putting the ball in play and later scored an a throwing error.
The Bison seized a 3-1 lead in the top of the sixth when Caleigh Livengood singled to right field with the bases loaded (on a walk, an error and an intentional walk).
The Mustangs rallied to pull even in their half of the sixth. Taylor Volstorf was safe on a bunt and later stole second and third bases, Hanah Lynch put the ball in play and Volstorf was safe at home, with Lynch later scoring from second base after the ball got away at the plate.
Lynch was back on base in the bottom of the ninth after swatting a double, and McCarty’s bunt led to an errant throw that yielded the winning run.
“It was exciting,” Lynch said of the final play.
McCarty said Mullen was a hard pitcher to hit “so we had to do what we had to do.”
Both pitchers had strong outings in their high school varsity debuts.
Mullen struck out 21 while Springer fanned 13.
“I was pretty excited but I was also nervous this morning thinking about it,” Springer said. “But I knew my defense had my back … I just had to throw strikes.”
New Buffalo coach Jason Haskins said the Bison have just two players with varsity experience (James and Shannon Dewitt, both juniors) but he expected Mullen’s pitching to keep them in contention most games.
“It just came down to some errors, and we’ve only had four practices.”
The Bison topped Lake Michigan Catholic 8-1 on April 15 as Mullen struck out 18 and NB batters totaled 15 hits (Shannon Dewitt, Amanda Jones and James had three each).
River Valley topped New Buffalo 17-1 in the April 13 opener.
Ryder Wolnik and Eli Thomas each drove in three runs for the Mustangs while teammate Chris Israelite had two RBI.
Gavyn Rogers and Alex Patton finished with two base hits apiece (RV totaled 9).
Andrew Flick had two of New Buffalo’s three hits.
Daniel Vollman and Ashton McNabb pitched for River Valley.
The Mustangs upped their record to 2-0 on April 14 with a 13-3 win over Decatur.
Wolnik drove in five runs while striking out five over four-innings.
On April 16 the Mustangs upped their record to 3-0 with a 9-3 win over Michigan Lutheran.
Israelite finished with two doubles and two runs batted in. Ethan Izydorski also had two hits for RV.
Alex Patton struck out seven in five innings on the mound.
River Valley was leading 7-4 in a second game with the Titans which was ended by darkness after three innings.