Prep Baseball & Softball

Columbia pitcher's gem hands Freeburg softball its first loss; Eagles still undefeated

Junior Kaelyn Rheinecker allowed only three hits, and Keeler VanBreusegen and Lindsay Wibbenmeyer drove in three runs each Friday as the Columbia Eagles defeated Freeburg 10-0 in a Cahokia Conference softball game.

Averaging 11 runs per game, the undefeated Eagles (18-0, 6-0) threatened in each of the first three innings against Freeburg ace Miranda Schulte, only to come away scoreless.

But getting a little help from three misplays by the Freeburg defense, the Eagles broke the game open with a six-run outburst in the fifth inning, highlighted by a three-run double by VanBreusegen, as Columbia took a 6-0 lead.

Rheinecker did the rest. With good location on her curveball and mixing in a change-up, Rheinecker stranded three Midgets base runners in the sixth inning. She then retired the side in order in the seventh to lock up her 10th complete game in 11 starts.

In handing Freeburg (11-1, 6-1) its first loss of the season, Rheinecker improved her record to 10-0. But as it has been all year, the Eagles pitchers continued to benefit from a lineup that has good hitters from top to bottom. Columbia finished with 13 hits Friday.

"This is our best team in my three years — no question,'' Rheinecker said. "As a pitcher, it takes some of the pressure off because we have the ability to score a lot of runs."

Columbia coach Rhonda Major pointed to Schulte, the Freeburg starting pitcher, as a key to the Eagles' early struggles.

"We had some chances to score early, but (Miranda) Schulte is a great pitcher, and she was able to make big pitches and get us out,'' Major said. "But this team keeps battling. We've done that all year, and we did it again tonight."

Lindsay Wibbenmeyer drove in two runs in the sixth inning to make it 8-0, and Chelsy Pena and Lexi Touchette added RBIs in the seventh to conclude the scoring.

Freeburg will get another chance to end the Eagles' winning streak on Tuesday when the Midgets travel to Columbia. That may not may not be good news to Freeburg coach Ben Howes.

"Obviously, they (Columbia) are a very good softball team. They have a very good lineup, and I think their pitcher (Rheinecker) is underrated because their offense is so good and they can score so many runs,'' Howes said.

"But we really hurt ourselves in the fifth inning. We gave them seven outs that inning, and you just can't do that against a team like Columbia.''