Softball: Royals increase SEC lead with Stillwater victory
It wasn't so much that the eighth-ranked Woodbury Royals looked good Wednesday afternoon. They did.
It was how easy they made it look against a talented team.
Woodbury used a combination of the long ball, stellar defense and lights-out pitching to roll ninth-ranked Stillwater, winning 7-0. As it has most of the season, everything was clicking for the Royals Wednesday.
It was Woodbury's 12th straight win and more or less locked up a Suburban East Conference championship unless something strange happens in the last week of the season.
Woodbury has conference games left against SEC teams Roseville (4-7), East Ridge (6-7) and Mounds View (1-11), and the Royals have outscored those three teams a combined 39-to-2 during the first head-to-head meetings this spring. A stiffer challenge for Woodbury will be its last non-conference contest of the regular season, a Saturday game at No. 2 Anoka.
Woodbury improved to 11-2 in the Suburban East Conference Wednesday and 12-2 overall.
Stillwater dropped to 8-4 in the conference and 10-4 on the season.
Leadoff hitter Amanda "Tex" Dickmeyer blasted back-to-back home runs in her first two at-bats, and Shannon Motzko ripped a two-run shot in the second to give the Royals all the offense they would need.
"Recently I've been thinking just hit the ball hard," said Dickmeyer, who drove a shot over the left centerfield fence to jump start the Royals with a bang. "Just get up there, don't think, trust your swing, trust the process, hit the ball hard and see where it goes."
Ashley Mickschl and the defense did the rest.
Mickschl pitched a gem, however, holding Stillwater to just a pair of hits in a complete-game shutout. Mickschl faces just two batters over the minimum and set the Stillwater side down in order in the first, second, fourth, fifth and seventh innings. She struck out eight and walked one.
Mickschl allowed just one Stillwater runner to get to third, the leadoff hitter in the third inning. She erased that with two strikeouts and got a clutch play behind the plate from catcher Motzko for another out. Other than that, no Stillwater hitter got further than first.
The only flaw in Mickschl's game Wednesday was she didn't give her defense the opportunity to make many plays.
Mickschl demurred when asked if this year's team was better than the team last year's which finished third in the state tournament.
"Oh, man, that's a tough question," said Mickschl with a laugh. "I mean team dynamic I think we're all flowing together well, the chemistry is all there, and we're really working together as a unit.
"I think we just try to come out every game strong all around and bring the intensity every time so we can play our game," added Mickschl.
While Mickschl was dominating offensive, the Royals were pounding the ball, rapping out 11 hits. Dickmeyer was 2-for-3 with two RBIs, Cam Veenbaas was 2-for-3 with one RBI, Mickschl was 1-for-4 with two RBIs, Jade Boisjoli was 1-for-2 with one RBI and Motzko was 3-for-3 with two RBIs.
Consistently has been a key element for the Royals this season, said Dickmeyer.
"Honestly, our team losing one senior from last year, our team is a lot of the same people," she said. "So we've really just had a good cohesive group. We've got a lot of talent. I think our team has been consistent. Not better or worse but we've definitely been consistent."
Woodbury led 1-0 after one inning, 4-0 after two and added another run in the fourth and two more in the sixth.
It's hard to find a weakness with this team, said assistant coach Rachel Nicholas.
"We have our mental lapses every once in a while, but usually they bounce back pretty quickly," Nicholas said. "I think over the years they've figured out how to tighten up those little weaknesses and those holes, so they're putting on a good front this year, which has been fun."