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After scooping up a ground ball, Lexi Factor winds up for the throw to first and the out. (Ben Camp photois/Southernminn.com)

Thursday evening, the St. Peter softball team welcomed the Tri-City United Titans to Jefferson Fields in a game that featured plenty of heat both on the diamond, and in the air.

Neither team struggled to get runners on base, as they combined for 19 hits — the Saints with 10 and the Titans with nine — but the timing of said hits for St. Peter, along with a handful of impressive defensive plays, allowed the Saints to pull away for an 8-2 win.

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Molly Closser begins her slide into second for a first-inning steal, the first of three for her in the game.

Some aggressive baserunning made an immediate impact, as TCU leadoff hitter Molly Closser hit a single into shallow left field before immediately stealing second on the first pitch of the next at-bat. Alexis Hoefs then hit the ball in play slowly towards third which allowed Closser to get to third as Saint's third basemen Sophia Doherty made the throw to first for the out. 

Fresh off a two-homerun evening, Ellaina Novak then hit a single that sped through the infield into right field, scoring Closser and putting the Titans up 1-0. St. Peter starting pitcher Kali Erickson brought an end to the inning though as she struck out the next batter before getting the final batter to hit the ball to second where Makayla Moline threw home, allowing catcher Nora Whipps to tag out the runner at the plate.

The Saints would go down in order in the bottom of the first and the TCU offense looked poised to strike once more in the top of the second with runners at second and third and only one out. The next ball was hit sharply to third where Doherty threw to home, as the runner had been sent, and Whipps made the tag for the out before throwing back to third to try and get the runner heading there. 

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Ellaina Novak gets her bat perfectly on a pitch to continue her recent hot hitting streak.

That throw arrived late but the initial hitter had used the opportunity to try and advance to second and the Saints threw there to try for the third out but the hitter slid in safely. As that throw took place however, the play became even wilder as the runner who had just made it safely to third was sent home and St. Peter's Makayla Moline was able to make the clean throw home where Whipps once again tagged the runner out, resulting in an inning ending 5-2-5-4-2 double play.

With some momentum on their side, the Saints opened the bottom of the inning with a leadoff double from Lilly Ruffin that found the right center-field gap. After a strikeout, Pettis cashed in Ruffin from second with a hard-hit RBI single to the outfield.

In the top of the third, TCU threatened once again as Closser led off with an infield single before stealing second and advancing to third as the throw got into the outfield. The next hit was a deep fly out to right field and Closser appeared to tag and score, but after the Saints threw the ball to third, it was determined by the officials that she had left the bag prior to the catch and called out.

After a strikeout brought the half-inning to a close, St. Peter pounced on the opportunity as Moline drew a leadoff walk. Grace Remmert came through in the clutch for the Saints with an RBI double followed by an intentional walk of Ruffin with first-base open. Doherty Made the titans pay on he next at-bat as she found no-mans-land with a single that scored both Remmert and Ruffin and she was eventually brought home on a sac-fly from Pettis, giving St. Peter a 5-1 lead.

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Laynee Blaschko slides into second safely and maintains contact with the bag after stealing second as a pinch runner.

At this point, Pettis entered the circle in relief for Erickson and after allowing a leadoff walk, followed by a stolen base by pinch runner Laynee Blaschko, Pettis was able to record three straight outs. St. Peter added two more runs in the bottom of the fourth and their eighth and final run in the fifth as Doherty led off with a solo homer to center field. 

TCU would add a second run of its own in the top of the sixth inning when Avery Lerfald hit an RBI double into left centerfield, scoring Blaschko who was once again pinch running for the Titans.

For the Saints, the win improves their record to 9-3 (4-3 BSW) while the loss drips the Titans to 6-9 (5-7 MRC).

St. Peter returns to action Tuesday, May 19 with a road game against New Ulm while TCU will travel to Cleveland Monday, May 16.

Reach Reporter Ben Camp at 931-8566 or follow him on Twitter @SPHvalleysports. © Copyright 2022 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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