Raiders break through, then sweep Royals
Stars and Stripes April 22, 2023
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, GERMANY – Three innings into Kaiserslautern’s doubleheader with crosstown rival Ramstein, Raider coach Zac Robinson remarked to his assistants that his team looked nervous.
In fact, he said, it was as though the Raiders were holding their breath.
That changed in the fourth inning, however, when senior Ariyanna Garrett hammered a 2-2 pitch from Ramstein’s Maddie Mihalic over the right-center field fence.
It appeared Kaiserslautern breathed easier after that, completing a twin bill sweep of the Royals at their home field by scores of 11-5 and 13-11 on Saturday.
“I feel like Ariyanna’s at-bat started a rally,” said Kaiserslautern’s Bevanie Cleark, who recorded the win in Game 1 and closed out the second game in the circle. “It gets everybody going. … We take advantage of that.”
From Garrett’s two-run homer, the Raiders (8-0, 8-0) outscored the Royals (6-2, 4-2) 24-12. Kaiserslautern managed to score in each of its last eight innings.
After the opening salvo, senior Aries Garrett parked a solo shot in the sixth inning of Game 1 in nearly dead center, Cleark had a double in the first game and drove in two runs in the second, first baseman Mariska Campbell doubled to left in the second game and junior left fielder Selam Foery posted three RBI in the first two innings of Game 2 off a double and a single.
Ramstein switching to Lily Rethage in Game 2 and Ari Chambers in relief in both games couldn’t stop the Kaiserslautern bats.
“She’s a really tough pitcher,” Robinson said of Mihalic. “It took us awhile even just to put the bat on the ball and feel comfortable. Then what we had was a few players had some really, really big at-bats, where even if they hit the ball in the infield, they beat it out or whatever. They fouled off pitches, drew the walk or whatever.”
Along with the hits, Kaiserslautern raided the basepaths.
The Raiders amassed 15 stolen bases over the two contests. That doesn’t include advancing on passed balls and wild pitches. It’s something Robinson said upon which the team prides itself.
“Understanding situations on the basepaths and being very aggressive on the bases, we’ve been working on that a lot,” he said. “We have a few girls that have a very good understanding and able to take the extra base when it’s available.”
The Raiders also got some complementary work from their gloves, getting themselves out of numerous jams.
With one out in the bottom of the early game’s fourth inning, Ramstein’s Maddy Young was on third base with one out. Mihalic launched a 3-0 pitch down the third base line near Ariyanna Garrett, who stuck out her glove and snagged it. The junior completed the double play just in time to keep the deficit at 5-3.
A similar situation occurred in the late game, as Cleark got a good jump on a looper toward second base from pinch hitter Liv Lebron, catching it for the second out. Keilani Gonzalez was running on the play, and Cleark tagged her out to end the top of the fifth.
That wasn’t Cleark’s only defining moment with her glove. In the first game, she recorded five putouts in the circle. The effort drew a joke from a Ramstein assistant, who asked Robinson between innings if Cleark could stop sweeping up everything that came at her.
“It happens a lot in practice,” Cleark said of ground balls being hit back to her. “It doesn’t happen much in games, but when it does come to that, I’m able to execute it.”
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Royals, though. They started off hot, posting two runs in the first inning and getting doubles by Mihalic and Rethage by the third. Ramstein enjoyed a four-run lead prior to the Raiders’ charge.
Then, in the second game, Ramstein entered the sixth inning trailing by nine, but the bats woke up. The Royals began with four straight hits, including an RBI double by Mihalic that scored Young. Coupled with another three walks and a Chambers two-RBI single, the Royals pulled it to a two-run deficit.
The rally ended there, as Cleark and the Raiders got the final two outs to seal the win.
“K-Town’s always been a strong team, and we knew that coming in,” Ramstein coach Kent Enyeart said. “We approached it as it’s the first person to blink, and unfortunately, we were the ones to blink first.
“We did come back. We were down nine runs, and they still had the heart, they still had the fight and they still had the desire. We just came up a little bit short, unfortunately.”
The two rivals entered the weekend with zero division losses, while Ramstein enjoyed a game lead over Kaiserslautern and Vilseck due to having more league wins.
With the win, Kaiserslautern keeps itself with at least a tie atop the Division I standings with Vilseck. While Robinson said it’s nice to be in that position now, it only matters where the team finishes at the European championship next month.
“8-0 is nice,” Robinson said. “I didn’t really expect it. Of course, it’s all going to come down to the tournament, so we still have a lot of tough games ahead of us.”