Olivia Olson, Rogers’ leadoff hitter for every game this year, watched Moorhead pitcher Drew Syverson warm up before the opening-round section game between the Spuds and the Royals. Her teammates watched too, realizing that Syverson’s speed on her pitches was much slower than they have seen in most games this season. Players knew they would have to make an adjustment.
“I really work on my bunt swing,” Olson said when talking about facing pitchers with slower speed on the mound. “It really helps with your timing and if you hold your bunt out long enough then it’s almost like it’s a fast pitcher because then when you pull back you are ready to swing right away.”
Olson was one of the best players to adjust on Tuesday afternoon, singling in all four at-bats in the Royals’ 10-0 victory. She also had three RBI and stole two bases. Seven different Royals got a hit off Syverson, with Emily Hanford adding two runs batted in and Melea Bruns, Maddie Thiebault, Kaitlynn Lloyd and Krysta Felber each adding one as well. The Royals left nine runners on base with huge powerful at-bats by Elli Anderson, Thiebault and Katelyn Kemmetmueller landing right in the opponents’ gloves.
Bruns was on the mound for the Royals, striking out five of the first six batters she saw and ending the game with 12 strikeouts total. She threw just 67 pitches (49 strikes, 18 balls), while allowing one hit and no walks. The only other base runner that reached for the Spuds (on an error) was thrown out by Olson when she delivered a rocket to Kemmetmueller for the put-out.
Bruns is now 7-1 on the year, and has an earned run average of 0.81. She has walked nine batters in 52 innings and allowed just six earned runs all year for the 20-1 Royals.
The Knights (9-11 in the regular season) defeated Brainerd (13-3) on Tuesday afternoon, setting up the third matchup of the season between the Royals and the Knights. The Royals won 4-0 on April 7, a cold, windy and rainy day early in the season, and then beat the Knights again (this time in the snow), 12-2, on May 13.
“I think we need to come ready and not think about who they are,” Olson said.
Kemmetmueller is expected to start for the Royals on Thursday afternoon. Kemmetmueller has struck out 141 batters in 76 innings this year, posting a 0.18 earned run average. Head Coach Jerry Bruns has been able to swap Kemmetmueller and Bruns back and forth based on matchups, something that has helped immensely over the course of the season.
“I trust both of them to take the mound, and more importantly they trust each other,” Bruns said.
Bruns wasn’t shocked to hear of the Knights’ win over Brainerd, pointing to the great pitching in the Mississippi 8 conference that helped the Knights get ready for a team like Brainerd early in the section tournament.
“We just need to work on winning one game at a time and work on doing the little things,” Olson said. “If we do that, then I know that we can pull something off.”