Mars batter is Suzanne Papik
JEFFERSON TWP — Niki Schlegel's warmup throws made her feel Thursday was going to go smoother than Wednesday did. With the way the Knoch softball team had been hitting the ball, the Mars sophomore pitcher needed a sharp performance. The Knights scored 33 runs during their three-game winning streak. Schlegel was a day removed from allowing 10 runs in a loss to Hampton. “I just forgot about that game,” Schlegel said. “I came out and warmed up and knew today was going to be a better day.” Schlegel allowed six hits and a walk, sparking Mars to an 8-inning, 5-3 Section 5-AAA win at Laura J. Doerr Memorial Park. She was just as effective at the plate, finishing 2-for-4 with two RBI. “Niki's the glue that holds us together,” Mars rightfielder Jeanna Sybert said. “We are a strong team that likes to back her up and show her that we appreciate her work and we're going to carry her through because she carries us.” As a whole, Mars pushed a collective restart button after a 10-5 loss to Hampton Wednesday. Before the loss to the Talbots, the Planets hadn't made any errors. Mars made three against Hampton. “I had them go out to the picnic table (beyond center field) before we arrived and unwind,” Planets coach Michele Goodworth said. “We had to let yesterday go.” Knoch tested the Planets' mettle. With Mars holding a 3-2 lead in the seventh, Bethany Hay led off with a triple. Abbi Smithmyer followed with a groundout that scored Hay and forced extra innings. “These girls in practice are told to play all seven innings, regardless of what happens in front of them or behind them,” Knights coach Tim Knappenberger said. “They did that today.” Blake Kitt and Mallory Eperesi singled to lead off the 8th inning for Mars. One batter later, Sybert hit a sacrifice fly to center field to score Kitt. Schlegel added an insurance run by singling in Eperesi. “I was nervous and sometimes I struggle under pressure. But I knew the whole team was supporting me the whole time,” Sybert said. “That and the whole situation carried me through it because you have to make something happen in that situation.” In the second inning, Mars was able to find the gaps against Knights pitcher Shelby Bruggeman. Kitt and Eperesi singled to open the inning and Shelby Huber walked to load the bases. Sybert drove in a run with a single down the line. One batter later, Schlegel drove in another run with a sacrifice fly and Suzanne Papik put the Planets ahead 3-0 with a single. “I looked at this as our rebound game. We wanted to get it together,” Schlegel said. “We hit better today and didn't make as many errors.” Knoch added two runs in the third inning. Smithmeyer singled, stole second base and advance to third on a throwing error. After Chandler Krelow walked, Codi Reed grounded out to score Smithmyer. Abbie Thrower drove in Krelow when her fly ball to center field was dropped.