Rockets trying to meet challenge in Bay Division race

J. Patrick Eaken

Oak Harbor freshman pitcher Reagan Schultz pitched a one-hit shut in the Rockets’ 11-0 win over Perkins in the opening game of the Croll Family Rocket Invitational.
        A few hours later, senior shortstop Kaytlynn Sandwisch went 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs in a 16-4 win over Mohawk as the Rockets became the tournament champions.
        The Rockets are 13-9 overall and 6-3 in the Sandusky Bay Conference entering play this week, which isn’t quite meeting championship expectations, but for a team will-mixed with veterans and underclassmen, they are meeting the challenge.
        “We are defending SBC Bay Division champions and are working toward defending that title,” eight-year coach Chris Rawski said. “The league is very strong, as the SBC always is year in and year out. It will be a tough title to defend, but I believe we are up to the challenge.” 
        Oak Harbor has won two straight SBC Bay Division titles and despite three losses, remains in the hunt for a third, but they have their work cut if they want to do so. Margaretta (16-1), which leads the Bay Division in seven of eight hitting categories, sits at 7-0 and Edison (14-4) is in third at 5-3.
        The Rockets also reached the regional tournament the past two years and that is still on the table, too. Those were the first district championships in school history.
        Even if this year’s team is unable to repeat a league or district title, Rawski likes the way his team competes.
        “We have a strong team chemistry and a group with experience in a very big games,” Rawski said. “We are looking forward to continuing the tradition that has been built for Rocket softball with great teamwork on the field.” 
        Last year’s team was 25-6 overall and a perfect 12-0 in the SBC and Rawski started 2019 with eight letter winners returning. In seven-plus years, his Oak Harbor teams have gone 158-71 overall and 66-35 against league opponents.
        This year’s team is hitting .377 with an on-base percentage of .433 and slugging percentage of .531. The Rockets have hit 52 doubles, nine triples and eight home runs, but their pitching ERA is next to last in the Bay Division at 4.65. That appears to be where the improvement needs to be made.
        “We have to prove ourselves in the circle and continue to believe we are a championship level team,” Rawski said.
        Leading the way is returning first team All-SBC third baseman Dani Epling and Sandwisch, both seniors. Sandwisch was also first team all-district and will play at Lourdes University next year.
        “Our infield (is) a strength for this team with all of the experience,” Rawski said.
        Sandwisch is second in the Bay Division in hits (35) and RBIs (27). She is batting .479 (35 for 73) with nine doubles, three triples, one home run, 26 runs scored, and two RBI, along with a .506 on-base percentage and .726 slugging.
        “Kaytlynn is having a fantastic senior season,” Rawski said. “She is our offensive leader and has been very reliable in some big spots. We hope her success continues to carry us into the postseason.” 
        During a 22-1 SBC win over Port Clinton, Sandwisch went 4-for-4 with six RBIs, and in an 8-3 victory over Vermilion, she went 3-for-3 with a double and four RBIs. She liked PC pitching so much, that the first time the Rockets played the Redskins Sandwisch went 3-for-4 with a triple and three RBIs during a 14-3 victory. She also had a 3-for-4 game with an RBI as the Rockets defeated Division IV state-ranked Gibsonburg, 6-5.
        Epling is batting .406 (26 for 64) with 12 doubles, a triple, home run, 20 RBIs, 22 runs, and two SB. She has an OBP of .466 and is slugging .672. In a 9-7 win over Edison, she went 3-for-4 with four RBIs and she was 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs in a 7-1 victory against Willard.
        Second team all-league selections returnees include senior catcher Olivia Jensen and junior second baseman Olivia Rahm, and outfielder Lauren St. Clair was honorable mention. Rahm was HM all-district.
        When you have that many returning award winners back, you expect big things out of them.
        “All returning players (are) expected to be pivotal parts of the offense because of their vast experience in big games throughout their careers,” Rawski said.
        Jensen is batting .403 (27 for 67) with seven doubles, a triple, home run, 20 RBIs, nine runs and one SB, plus she has an OBP of .44 and is slugging .582. She went 2-for-3 with two RBI in an 8-3 win over Start, and was 3-for-3 with a home run and three RBI as the Rockets routed Northwood, 22-3.
        Rahm is batting .400 (24 for 60) with three doubles, two triples, two home runs, 21 RBIs, 13 runs, two SB, a .441 OBP and .617 slugging.
        Schultz has also emerged as a starter at center field when not pitching, and so has her classmate Remi Gregory at first base. At left field, sophomore Emma Martin is starting.
        Schultz is batting .368 (25 for 68) with three doubles, a triple, home run, 13 RBIs, 28 runs, and a team-leading eight SB. On-base, she is at .463 and is .485 slugging.
        Gregory, who is batting .279, had a big day offensively against Huron, going 3-for-3 with two doubles, an RBI, and she scored three runs.
        Senior designated player Chloe Roosen has also shown what she can do offensively, going 3-for-3 with a double and RBI in a 7-1 non-league win over Lake.
        In the circle, Schultz, sophomore Taylor Lemaster and freshman Tori Smith have been competing for innings.
        Schultz is 4-1 with a 3.29 ERA, 28 strikeouts, 22 walks, and 15 earned runs in 32.2 innings. Smith is 3-3 with a 4.41 ERA, 24 strikeouts, 15 walks, and 25 earned runs in 39.2 innings. Lemaster is 6-5 with a 5.56 ERA, 46 strikeouts, 46 walks, and 49 earned runs in 61.2 innings.


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