Ramstein's offense overcomes shaky 'D'
By GREGORY BROOME | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 16, 2014
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- In a disconcerting way, the Ramstein Royals' two softball games Friday resembled the two losses they suffered last weekend.
In another, more important way, they didn't.
As it was against Patch last Saturday, the Royal defense was plagued Friday by occasional fits of throwing errors and an inability to close out innings. But this time the struggles didn't spell defeat. The overwhelming Ramstein offense buried the sins of its defense under a pile of runs in 17-7 and 9-4 wins over the Red Raiders, shoving the memories of the previous weekend's 8-3 and 16-0 losses to the Panthers further into history.
Still, the trend has grown tiresome for Kathy Kleha, coach of the defending DODDS-Europe Division I champion Royals.
After watching the Raiders score six unearned, two-out runs in a single inning of Friday's opener, Kleha discussed her team's frustrating new tendency to clock out two-thirds of the way through a defensive frame.
"I think part of it is, we just have a young team," Kleha said. "So as far as them staying focused and aware of what's going on, sometimes they lapse."
The "bad habit," as Kleha called it, placed the Royals at risk of a three-game losing streak as the Raiders' six-run stampede cut the Ramstein lead to 7-6 entering the fifth inning. But the Royals, themselves aided by a string of Kaiserslautern defensive miscues, sent a steady stream of runners homeward to secure a misleadingly comfortable 10-run win.
Though the Royals don't want to rely entirely on their hitting prowess to smooth over mistakes elsewhere, Ramstein cleanup hitter Zania Sterling said the team knows it's capable of getting back whatever runs it gives up. The Royal cleanup hitter said the Royals' mindset is "confident" rather than "arrogant," adding that the previous weekend's losses to Patch were a beneficial learning experience for the young defending champs.
Sterling herself led the recovery efforts Friday, going 3-for-4 with three runs scored in the opener.
Bailey Loomis pitched the Royals to a less eventful win in the nightcap, securing Ramstein's sixth doubleheader sweep of the season.
Kaiserslautern, meanwhile, was neither encouraged nor particularly discouraged by the afternoon's events.
"We were confident already. It's not that big a deal," Raiders coach John Culbreth said. "We made some errors and they capitalized on it."
The doubleheader spelled the end of each team's regular-season.
The 12-2 Royals will likely enter next week's European tournament seeded behind Patch, which takes an unbeaten record into Saturday's set against Wiesbaden. The Raiders will take an 11-3 record into the postseason.