Van Wert shortstop Saige Royer (13) bounces off of third base as a pitch is delivered during the Cougars’ 2-1 win over Bryan on Saturday at Jubilee Park. Royer was 1-for-2 in the game and scored a run. (Times Bulletin/Tina Eley)
Van Wert shortstop Saige Royer (13) bounces off of third base as a pitch is delivered during the Cougars’ 2-1 win over Bryan on Saturday at Jubilee Park. Royer was 1-for-2 in the game and scored a run. (Times Bulletin/Tina Eley)
By Jim Cox
Times Bulletin Correspondent
VAN WERT - On a Saturday afternoon, when Van Wert’s hitting wasn’t at its best, the pitching and fielding came up big in a 2-1 win over Bryan. The Lady Cougars are now 2-1. Bryan is 1-2.
With the score tied 1-1 going into the bottom of the seventh, shortstop Saige Royer led off with a double to the gap in right center, then advanced to third on a wild pitch. Right fielder Claire White then smoked a liner to the same gap, sending Royer home with the game-ender.
Both starting pitchers, Van Wert’s Kateri Steinecker and Bryan’s Trista Savage, cruised through the first inning, but Steineker wouldn’t have it so easy after that. With one out in the top of the second, the Lady Bears loaded the sacks on three straight walks. Steinecker escaped, though, with a strikeout and a force-out at home, Steinecker to catcher Miranda Stittsworth.
The second-inning scenario would be repeated in the fourth — bases full of Golden Bears with one out — but a force-out at home and a grounder to third baseman Alyssa Bowen got the Cougars out of that one, too. In the meantime, Savage was having no trouble in the first four innings, only one ball getting out of the infield, that being a fly-out to center by Royer. With the score 0-0, new pitchers, Brook Brown for Van Wert and April Rickenberg for Bryan, started the fifth inning, and it was a different ballgame after that.

The Bears took a 1-0 lead in the top of the fifth. With one out, center fielder Tiffany Rickenberg ripped a double to deep left. Right fielder Sierra Hughes blooped a single to shallow right, moving Rickenberg to third, and catcher Bailee Speelman drove in Rickenberg with a grounder to short.
The Cougars tied it in the bottom of the fifth when White led off with a ground ball double down the left field line, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored on Brown’s grounder to short.
Brown cruised through the sixth and seventh innings, albeit with some fine defensive plays behind her. In the sixth, first baseman Samantha Rohrbacher made a nifty catch of a bounced throw to first. In the seventh, speedy center fielder Hannah Hulbert barely ran down a fly to shallow left center. Bowen followed that with a diving stop of a ground ball, then stood and gunned down the runner by a fraction at first base.
“I’m real happy,” said Van Wert coach Mike McClure. “Good pitching. Good defense. We walked a few batters, but third game of the year, a couple of young pitchers, they’ll get through that. We didn’t hit the ball real well, but all of a sudden the bats lit up. We’re coming along (defensively). It’s taken longer than I wanted it to, but this is as good a defense as we’ve ever had here.”
Steinecker didn’t give up a hit or a run during her four innings of work. However, she walked six batters while striking out one, throwing 64 pitches, of which only 30 were strikes. Brown got the win in relief, giving up one earned run on three hits in her three innings. She struck out two and walked nobody. Of her 37 pitches, 24 were strikes.
Savage pitched four innings for Bryan, yielding no runs and one hit, while striking out two and walking one. Of her 41 pitches, 25 were strikes. April Rickenberg took the loss. During her two-plus innings, she gave up two runs, both earned, on three hits, neither walking nor striking out anybody, but hitting one batter. Of her 24 pitches, 13 were strikes.
White was the only player on either team with more than one hit. She was 2-for-3, including a double, with one run and one RBI. Royer was 1-for-2, a double, with one run. Left fielder Emily Bair had the only other Cougar hit, an infield single in the second inning. Bryan’s three hits came from Hughes, April Rickenberg and Tiffany Rickenberg, who had a double and a run.
Scoring                    R H E
Bryan      000 010 0- 1 3 0
Van Wert 000 010 1- 2 4 1
Bryan (ab-r-h-rbi)
Gorzelanczyk 2b 4-0-0-0, Tworak ss 4-0-0-0, Tiffany Rickenberg cf 3-1-1-0, Hughes rf 4-0-1-0, Speelman c 2-0-0-1, Wieland lf 0-0-0-0, Andrews lf 1-0-0-0, Sanchez 1b 1-0-0-0, Stockman 3b 1-0-0-0, Kline 3b 1-0-0-0, Savage p 2-0-0-0, April Rickenberg p 1-0-1-0. Totals 24-1-3-1.
Van Wert (ab-r-h-rbi)
Bowen 3b 3-0-0-0, Ricketts 2b 3-0-0-0, Steinecker p/dp 3-0-0-0, Royer ss 2-1-1-0, White rf 3-1-2-1, Bair lf 2-0-1-0, Brown dp/p 2-0-0-1, Rohrbacher 1b 1-0-0-0, Stittsworth c 2-0-0-0, Hulbert cf 0-0-0-0. Totals 21-2-4-2.
Doubles: Tiffany Rickenberg (B), Royer (VW), White (VW).
LOB: Bryan 9, Van Wert 3.
WP: Brown. LP: April Rickenberg.