Gehlen softball strikes early, shuts out River Valley to advance
LE MARS — The Gehlen Catholic softball team struck early for all of their runs in the first inning and held River Valley scoreless to win their Class 1A regional quarterfinal game by a 4-0 score on Wednesday.
The Lady Jays got a bye in their bracket which allowed the team extra time to regroup after ending the regular season on a six game losing streak. Pitcher Rylee Schnepf said it also allowed her to get some extra rest as she is still sporting a brace from her ACL injury.
“I think the break was good for us, especially for me just to rest and get rejuvenated and get ready for the postseason,” Schnepf said.
Schnepf sent down the Wolverines in order in the top of the first and then the team got her a four run lead in the bottom of the inning.
Gehlen Head Coach Tony Gunter said it was good to see the team put pressure on their opponent right away.
“Coach Alesch had told the girls we need to score a bunch of runs and bat around the first inning and danged if we didn’t get it done,” Gunter said. “We got some people on base and put some pressure on them, scoring on squeezes and passed balls.”
River Valley pitcher Klaudia Pry struggled with some control issues in the opening inning which helped the Jays score their runs. She walked the first two batters she faced before Larissa Pohlen and Nevaeh Hodgson dropped down bunts to drive in the first runs. Those two then came home on balls which made it past the catcher and to the backstop.
Schnepf said with a four run cushion, she was able to settle in.
“I think it was nice because I know I have that cushion room,” Schnepf said. “If they do get someone on base, and they really only got one person on base that got to second, but that was really helpful that we had wiggle room.”
She gave up one hit to lead off the top of the second, a single to Maddie Thomas, but she didn’t allow another baserunner the rest of the game.
“Her spotting the pitches is tremendous,” Gunter said. “She was up a little in the zone early which scares me a little bit against better teams, but these guys were free-swinging a little bit. Then she did get it down and we found the umpire would give us that low strike so we lived down there the rest of the game and it worked out really well. Her changeup was amazing.”
Schnepf finished the game with 14 strikeouts which included striking out the side in the third and fourth innings. She has over 200 strikeouts on the season which is among the top 25 in all classes and in the top 10 of Class 1A.
Pry similarly kept the Jays off the scoreboard for the final six innings, but the damage was already done in the first. The Jays got a two-out single in the second from Aspen Mosher and drew walks in the fourth from Kenzi Alesch and sixth from Schnepf, but were unable to manufacture any more runs.
“They had a good pitcher on the mound,” Gunter said. “She settled in and we needed to hit the ball and we didn’t hit the ball late, but Rylee is tremendous and made it stand up the whole game.”
River Valley finishes the season with a 16-17 record.
Gehlen improves to 16-11 on the season and will play at No. 12 ranked Akron-Westfield (23-5) in the regional semifinal round on Friday. The Westerners won the first meeting of the season by a 17-3 score and the most recent game between the two was a 3-0 win for the Westerners.