By Rob LaPlante
Crow River News Sports
The St. Michael-Albertville softball team finally hit the outdoors. Buffalo starting pitcher Madison DeMarais made sure the outdoors is all they would be hitting.
With its first three games of the season postponed, the Knights and Buffalo finally had a pleasant 60-degree afternoon last Friday to begin the 2013 campaign.
DeMarais and STMA senior pitcher Alex Berg both pitched complete games. But it was Buffalo’s junior pitcher earning a 4-1 win, holding the Knights to just two hits over seven innings.
“She’s a new pitcher. Their other pitcher hurt her knee, so we didn’t know too much about (DeMarais),” said STMA head coach Kellie Shumway. “I think it was more inconsistency with our girls. We talked about opening up our strike zones with two strikes and being a little more aggressive.”
Buffalo got on the board early with a first-inning run, but the Knights answered in their half of the inning after DeMarais allowed a run to score hitting a batter with the bases loaded.
Both pitchers settled down until Buffalo rallied for three more runs in the fourth inning. All three runs were scored after a line drive to left field eluded the glove of freshman outfielder Tia Zachman and rolled halfway to the fence.
Despite the error, Shumway said Zachman and the Knights had a well played defensive effort.
“For the first time being outside, I thought defensively we did very well,” Shumway said. “We did a few things we’ll fix for next time, but overall, we made some great plays.”
Senior catcher Bianca Zins is the leader of the defense and she said the defense and pitching gave the Knights a chance.
“Besides that one inning, I think we did well defensively,” Zins said. “But our bats when we got up there, we weren’t swinging.”
The Knights did show patience at the plate, drawing four walks in the game. But each time DeMarais allowed a base runner, she quickly got out of the mini-jams with a key strikeout or softly hit balls to the infield.
STMA had its best chance to rally after the first two hitters reached base in the bottom of the seventh inning. Neither base runner would score as DeMarais ended the contest by striking out two of the next three hitters.
“The ump liked the low strike and (DeMarais) did well placing it there,” Zins said. “But she did well mixing up her pitches and going outside the zone. This was our first time on the field, so we had a little bit of nerves. We have a bunch of games coming up. We’ll get them next time.”
STMA took on conference rival Rogers, Tuesday afternoon at home (results unavailable). The Knights will play a doubleheader starting at 3:30 p.m. this Thursday at Cambridge-Isanti. Saturday at 10 a.m. they will be at Becker for the Varsity Invitational.