Sometimes getting back on the field is just what the doctor ordered.
Everyone remembers Michael Jordan’s 1997 “Flu Game”, and Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series heroics of hitting a walk-off home run while battling a stomach virus and two injured legs has been well documented.
While Kristen Baker’s performance Thursday afternoon may be leaps and bounds from those historic moments in sports history, what the senior did on the softball diamond was impressive in its own right.
Perhaps the most impressive thing was leading Conneaut to a 16-3 Region 6 victory over Meadville in six innings at the Crawford County Fairgrounds.
On Monday, Baker had her wisdom teeth pulled. On Thursday, she was back on the field, going 5-for-5 at the plate with two triples, a double, three runs scored and five RBIs.
“I actually felt pretty good,” Baker said. “I was just making sure I didn’t get hit in the mouth. Other than that, I was ready to play.”
Baker was more than ready, and her outstanding performance came at a time when Conneaut needed it, having struggled as of late and looking for a potential turning point in the season.
Thursday may have been that moment.
“(Baker) did great, and she played awesome defensively,” Conneaut manager Stephanie Baer said. “She made some nice plays up the middle and turned a double play. She just had her wisdom teeth out on Monday, and she stuck it out. I’m very proud of her.”
Conneaut improved to 3-4 overall with the win and 3-2 in Region 6 play, while Meadville falls to 1-7 overall and 0-5 in Region 6.
Baker’s five hits led a barrage of base knocks for the Eagles, as Conneaut tallied 17 hits in the contest. The Eagles scored in all but one inning, and six players had multi-hit games.
“This was a great change of pace for us,” Baer said. “I think we had more hits in the first inning today than we have in the last three games. Right off the bat we were excited because it was an improvement.”
The Eagles wasted no time getting on the board, as Baker led off the game with a single to start the rally. Hard hit balls resulted in multiple baserunners to get on, loading the bases for Kayla Ordos with one out in the frame.
Ordos delivered with a bases-clearing triple to give Conneaut the early 3-0 lead.
The Eagles were back at it in the second, scoring a pair of runs thanks to RBI singles from Baker and Emily Baum to make it a quick 5-0 lead for Conneaut.
The offensive surge for Conneaut continued in the top of the third, when Baker and Tori Urbas both tallied RBI singles to highlight a three-run frame to give the Eagles a commanding 8-0 lead.
To Meadville’s credit, rather than roll over and allow Conneaut to walk away with an easy win, the Lady Bulldogs struck for two runs in the bottom of the third thanks to a two-RBI single by Megan Alexander to cut the lead to six runs.
Alexis Rhoades began to hit her stride on the mound for Meadville in the fourth, working a 1-2-3 inning before the Lady Bulldogs added another run in the bottom of the fourth when Kaycee Keas scored on a wild pitch to make it 8-3 in favor of Conneaut.
“We battled,” Meadville manager Jim Moats said. “We had some defensive innings where we shut them down a bit. We made adjustments hitting the ball and got some runs, but we didn’t make the right adjustments at the right time. Defensively, all of (Conneaut’s) big innings came after we made mistakes.”
Those big innings came in the top of the fifth and sixth, where the Eagles combined for eight runs on six hits, including triples in both innings by Baker. The timely hitting, coupled with three Meadville errors, put the game out of reach for the Lady Bulldogs.
“There are way too many errors defensively,” Moats said. “It’s the little things that I’ve talked about over and over. Every game we talk about doing the little things right. Once we get those fixed, we’ll be competitive.”
Along with Baker, Brooke Phelps, Rebecca Hazen, Ordos, Karley Auen and Urbas all finished with multiple hits. Ordos had three RBIs and two runs scored, and Urbas scored three times and drove in a run.
As a team, Meadville finished with three hits, with Alexander recording a pair of RBIs.
Sahara Blair had a solid day in the circle for the Eagles, pitching all six innings, allowing three runs, two earned, on three hits while striking out two.
“Today we knew what we had to do,” Baker said. “It’s going to build our confidence in hitting and fielding, because we know what we have. Sometimes our confidence is low, but we know what we’re capable of.”
Sometimes getting back on the field is just what the doctor ordered.
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