Rockets shut down in softball playoffs in two no-hitters

Rockford won the sub-section championship before being eliminated from the playoffs. Pictured front row from left, Keeley Hertle, Allison Pedersen, Brooklyn Sanderson, Emili Cain, Michalie Zilmer and Grace Rootness. Top row, Brianna Westrup, McKenzie Rentz, Sam FitzSimmons, Madeline Altmann, Alexa Heidgerken, Sara Byers, Ellie Sather and Molly Nooyen. (Submitted photo)

It was not the way a defending section champion wants to relinquish its crown when Rockford’s fastpitch team was no-hit in its last two playoff games in the same day last week.

After winning the sub-section title with three straight playoff wins, Rockford lost 13-0 to eventual champ Maple Lake in the winner’s bracket final. The same day Rockford lost 11-0 to Annandale when again not collecting a hit. Both games lasted five innings.

“Getting no-hit in back to back games was unusual for us,” said coach Dawn Engebretson about a team that went to state in three of the last four years. “The Maple Lake pitcher was the best we have seen her this year. She kept getting stronger.”

Annandale pitched a perfect game against Rockford earlier in the season. Rockford advanced in the Section 5A playoffs by defeating Holy Family 5-2, Southwest Christian 7-1 and Glencoe Silver Lake 5-3.

Rockford lost half of its state tourney team to graduation last year, but was competitive until the end.

“The players had worked hard to be at this spot and finally got their chance on varsity,” adds the coach about having several new starters. “At the beginning of the year we had a ton of close games, including three one-run losses to good teams. We would panic after a bad inning. The rest of the year players concentrated to play with more confidence.”

Junior Grace Rootness led the Rockets with 27 hits, 22 runs scored, 18 runs batted in and a .355 batting average. Sophomore Madeline Altmann tied for the most RBIs with 18, plus had 18 hits and a .353 batting average.

Rockford’s softball seniors included from left, Aurora Balducci, Brianna Westrup, Michalie Zilmer, Allison Pedersen, Emili Cain and Brooklyn Sanderson. (Submitted photo)

Senior Brooklyn Sanderson batted .328 with 20 hits and 8 RBIs. Junior Samantha FitzSimmons added 23 hits, drove in 11 runs and batted .299. Senior Michalie Zilmer batted .294 with 20 hits and 10 RBIs. Senior Emili Cain had 23 hits, 10 RBIs and a .284 average.

Cain posted a 2.58 earned run average as a pitcher, striking out 88 batters in 73 innings. Rootness had a 1.6 earned run average with 57 strikeouts in 69 innings.

Team awards were handed out at the banquet Monday. Cain and Altmann were named to the All-Section team. Cain, Altmann and senior Brooklyn Sanderson were All-Conference first team. Named to the second All-Conference team were Zilmer, FitzSimmons and senior Allison Pedersen.

Senior Brianna Westbrook was injured and could not play this season so she became the team manager and was named to the All-State Academic team.

Other awards included Rootness as most valuable player, Sanderson as most dedicated, Pedersen as most improved, sophomore Keeley Hertle won the hustle award and Zilmer was given the coaches award for being a great teammate.