SOFTBALL: Taylor Waukazo flirts with no-no twice, Bemidji courts sweep as win streak hits 7
Over the two games, Taylor Waukazo allowed four combined hits and struck out 12 batters.
BEMIDJI -- Taylor Waukazo played it cool on Friday.
“My arm’s a little sore,” she said. “But it’s all right.”
Calm and collected as she may be, Waukazo’s right arm was the golden ticket for the Bemidji High School softball team. She flirted with two no-hitters and pitched every inning of 10-0 and 11-1 wins over Sauk Rapids-Rice at the BHS softball field.
Oh, and not to mention the Lumberjacks have now won seven in a row for the first time since 2013.
“It feels really good,” Waukazo said. “And, as a senior, it feels amazing to have our record go back up. Since we had a rough patch in the beginning, we’ve really worked hard to get it figured out.”
Although Bemidji started the season 1-10, head coach Brad Takkunen has witnessed the effort his players have put in to make a turnaround like this possible. In their past seven games, the Jacks have outscored opponents 75-19.
“We’ve come a long way,” Takkunen said. “As a coach, you can give suggestions like, ‘Hey, here’s what I’m seeing, here’s what you need to do.’ But they need to put in the work. And every one of these girls is willing to work. It’s been so much fun to be part of that.”
In game one, Waukazo came within two outs of a no-hitter. She was five outs away in game two. Both were five-inning affairs, and the implemented mercy rule was a testament to Waukazo’s stinginess in the circle and a red-hot lineup to support her.
“(Waukazo’s) got very nice stuff. If she can locate her pitches, boy, that really puts us in a good position,” Takkunen said. “I don’t know how you can’t be confident. She’s throwing strikes, she’s making them earn it, she’s getting strikeouts. She’s doing a lot of good things.”
Over the two games, Waukazo allowed four combined hits and struck out 12 batters.
At the dish, BHS was just as lethal. The Jacks (8-10) scored five runs in the second inning of game one, which included Hannah Alexander’s two-RBI double, and another three runs in the fourth thanks to RBI singles from Elizabeth Oster, Peyton Oelrich and Jordan Hunsberger, the last of which made for a 10-0 lead.
The no-hitter evaporated on Hailey Arnold’s sharp single up the middle in the fifth inning, and the Storm (3-13) even loaded the bases to at least threaten the shutout. But Hunsberger made a nice play on a ground ball at second base, and she fired to first for the game-ending, shutout-preserving victory.
Game two was almost an instant replay. As the away team on the scoreboard, Bemidji scored early and often to consistently build up its lead.
Lexie Tatro cracked an RBI double and later came in on a sacrifice fly in the first inning, and a hit parade in the third produced four more runs -- half on a Waukazo two-RBI single.
Courtney Bullie plated two more with her single in the fourth frame, and Jody Pemberton piled them on with a two-run double to the wall in the fifth.
“(An offense like that) creates a lot of energy, and everyone gets really excited,” Waukazo said. “It’s really fun to be a part of.”
It was a familiar culprit who broke up Waukazo’s second no-hit bid in the fourth inning, as Arnold hit a soft blooper that deflected off Tatro’s glove at shortstop and safely onto the shallow outfield grass.
Anna Schave later scored on a fifth-inning wild pitch to finally get Sauk Rapids-Rice on the board, but it couldn’t outshine a dominant day for Bemidji, both offensively and defensively.
Tatro headlined the offensive efforts, combining to hit 4-for-5 with a double, two walks, two RBIs and five runs.
“I’m honored to be a part of it,” Waukazo said of the team’s recent run. “It’s a lot of fun. And I love our team.”
BHS will try to push its winning streak to nine at 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 25, with a home doubleheader against 2-14 Detroit Lakes. The series will double as the Lumberjacks’ regular season finale.
Bemidji 10, Sauk Rapids-Rice 0 (five innings)
SRR 000 00 -- 0-2-0
BHS 151 3X -- 10-9-1
WP: Waukazo (CG, 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K)
LP: Schave (CG, 4 IP, 9 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 6 BB, 3 K)
Bemidji 11, Sauk Rapids-Rice 1 (five innings)
BHS 204 32 -- 11-13-1
SRR 000 01 -- 1-2-0
WP: Waukazo (CG, 5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 K)
LP: Arndt (CG, 5 IP, 13 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 2 BB, 4 K)