It wasn’t exactly the welcome-home party the Tri City United softball team was hoping for.
After a week of scrimmaging other teams in the sunshine of Florida, the Titans returned home Monday night to a significant change in weather. Tuesday afternoon, they faced conference foe Belle Plaine for their first official game as a squad. The MRC match-up would provide many other of the Titans’ “firsts,” including first hit (Coley Selley’s lead-off single), but Carol Lilla’s squad was unable to score its first-ever run as the Titans fell to the Tigers 5-0 in Belle Plaine.
The Titans’ less-desirable firsts, such as first error and first strikeout, proved to be too toxic, and piled up in the bottom of the fourth inning as the Tigers went on a spree and scored five runs on four hits. With the exception of that lone inning, Alyshia Angileno’s pitching performance for the Titans was strong, yielding two strikeouts, one walk, and allowing eight hits.
But Kelsey Stender, for the third year in a row, looks to be the ace and frequent MVP for the Tigers; Stender struck out 15 batters in seven innings and allowed just one hit.
The cold, windy weather may have been a factor for TCU coming off of several 80-degree days at the Disney Sports Complex in Florida. Belle Plaine, on the other hand, had played under similar conditions the previous evening and come away with a win over Blue Earth Area. Still, the teams seemed evenly matched for six out of seven innings, and for the most part the contest was a quickly-moving pitchers duel.
Before the game, Titans head coach Carol Lilla told KCHK she felt confident about this year’s pitching staff but knew the Titans would need to put runs on the board to back it up – following the game, Lilla acknowledged her team’s lack of offensive production was an issue and would continue to be a focal point in practice.
Behind Stender, Tigers head coach Jeremy Kalal says his team feels confident on offense and defense this year and hopes to continue to dominate in the Minnesota River Conference; Belle Plaine is now 4-1 overall, and 3-1 in the MRC.
Belle Plaine will face Norwood Young America on Thursday while the Titans travel to Jordan.