SPRINGVILLE - With a small and somewhat inexperienced squad, Springville softball coach Laura Riley thought it might take a little time for her team to get acclimated to the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign.

      In fact, it turned out to be the opposite as the Orioles hosted Maquoketa Valley in the season-opener Monday, June 15.

      “We couldn’t have been happier with the output the girls had, across the board,” said Riley, as Springville looked in mid-season form claiming a 6-2 triumph in the first game of the twin bill.

      “The girls hit the ball very well, ran the bases with aggression, played blistering defense and our pitchers looked really strong. I believe Grace (Matus, the team’s catcher), caught four runners trying to steal and picked another girl off third base. We even turned a double-play in the first game and Ashlynne Zaruba had two ESPN-like stops at second base. We reminded the girls that scoring 6-7 runs in a game will have us in the situation to win every time out.”

      And Springville (1-1) wasted no time in getting to work in the opener as Matus led off the game with a walk, stole second and then scored on a pair of passed balls to hand the hosts a quick 1-0.

      They were just getting started.

      Matus walked and scored again in the bottom of the third while Savannah Nealman singled and scored in the framer as well pushing the Oriole lead to 3-0.

      After Libby Moore reached on a Wildcat error, Hannah March singled her in and the hosts were cruising up 5-0.

      The highlight of the opener came in the fourth frame when Nealman jacked a two-run home run, scoring Matus for a third time in the game.

      Moore got the start in the pitchers’ circle and went the distance striking out seven while allowing just four hits and two walks.

      Nealman powered the Springville offense going 3-for-4 while Matus added two more hits and stole a pair of bases.

      The nightcap saw the Orioles trailing 7-6 heading into the bottom of the seventh before the hosts rallied as Zaruba worked a bases loaded walk to plat teammate Molly Stamp to tie the game and force extra frames.

      Maquoketa Valley took control in the eighth however, scoring five times to pull away for a 12-7 triumph, splitting the Tri-Rivers Conference doubleheader with Springville.

      Stamp had a big game at the plate that included a double and a single while Matus tallied two more hits in the finale and scored another run. Nealman, Zaruba and Nia Howard all added hits as well for the Oriole offense.

      Nealman got her first varsity pitching start and worked the game’s first three innings before Stamp came on in relief in the fourth and pitched into the eighth.

      Nealman allowed five hits and six walks while fanning a pair of Wildcat batters while Stamp, also making her pitching debut, struck out three batters allowing four walks and three hits.

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