By Justin Bates
For The Herald Bulletin
Defending Little League Softball Central Region champion Riverfield started its title defense with a gut-wrenching 6-5 loss to Appleton, Wisc., on Saturday in pool play at Stokely Field in Indianapolis.
Riverfield led 5-0 after four innings but couldn’t hang on as Wisconsin scored four runs in the fifth inning and another in the sixth to force extra innings. Wisconsin literally stole the winning run after a walk and a stolen base led to two throwing errors bringing the game-winner to the plate.
“That was tough,” Riverfield coach Seth Kelley said. “We just didn’t make enough plays to win, and it started in the fifth inning. We played flawless through five innings.”
Riverfield got on the board in the first inning with an RBI single by Brianna Tapscott, scoring Rachel Duncan. They added three more runs in the third inning on a wild pitch and a two-RBI single by Emma Kelley. Tapscott drove in Duncan again with a hit to make it 5-0.
“That’s what we do. We're a hitting machine,” said Kelley of his offense, which outhit Wisconsin 10-4 but had five errors. “The two-run single got us going, and we were in the driver's seat. (Kalin Hubble) pitched a great game, and she did a good job hitting her spots.”
Hubble allowed just four hits and two earned runs in six innings on the mound while striking out three.
The wheels started on come off in the bottom of the fifth when a controversial no-call on an interference play led to two Wisconsin runs, and the team from Appleton added two more unearned runs to make it 5-4. Wisconsin added another unearned run in the sixth after an error with two outs, and the winning run was also unearned.
“We started the state tournament with a loss, and it was a tough one just like this,” said Kelley. “We have to forget about it, and that’s what I told the girls. We have to bounce back.”
Duncan led the Riverfield offense with two hits and three runs and also made a double play in the field in the bottom of the sixth keep the game tied. Tapscott, Hubble and Megan Moran each had two hits for Riverfield.
“She had a wonderful game,” said Kelly of Duncan. “She always brings her 'A' game, and today was no different.”
Riverfield is looking to become just the second team to repeat as Central Region champions in the 36-year history of the tournament and the first since Tallmadge, Ohio, in 1991-92.
Riverfield (0-1) continues pool play Sunday against Missouri at Stokely Field at 7 p.m. The top two teams from each pool advance to the semifinals on Thursday at 11 a.m. The championship game is Thursday at 3 p.m.