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Alexis Bonk strikes out 19 as South Lyon beats, ties Walled Lake Northern in key Lakes Valley twinbill

By: Matthew B. Mowery, April 30, 2019, 11:25 pm

COMMERCE TWP. — Alexis Bonk was a force of nature, dominating the first game. 

Mother Nature got jealous, and tried to match her feat in the second game, but came up a bit short.

After Bonk threw a three-hitter in the opener of Tuesday’s Lakes Valley Conference doubleheader against Walled Lake Northern, recording 19 of the 21 outs by strikeout in a 6-1 win, the weather made the second game much messier.

An inning and a half of persistent cold rain aided the two teams in scoring 10 runs, leaving it in a 5-5 deadlock after the rains finally slowed. After five innings, with darkness coming quickly, it was called a tie, and will only be resumed if it impacts the LVC title race.

“Unfortunately we couldn’t hold on to the lead. They’re a good ball team, and we had to play in the conditions, so did they. … We’re just going to leave it as a tie, then see if it matters. If it matters, we’ll end up playing it. If it doesn’t matter, there’s no point in coming back and playing a couple of innings,” Northern coach Kristen Woodard said. “So basically I’ve gotta hope they lose.”

South Lyon (7-2-1, 5-0-1 LVC) came into the doubleheader tied with Milford atop the league standings. The Knights (11-2-1, 3-2-1 LVC) already had a league loss from a split with South Lyon East. 

“Michigan’s been crazy this year, but that’s what you expect from high school softball, right? You’ve gotta overcome, and when we got down three runs, they battled. Really proud of them for that. If we’ve gotta come out here and finish it, we’ll try to get it done,” South Lyon coach Dan DePaulis said. “I think in the fourth inning, there were puddles forming, and the pitchers really couldn’t grip the ball, and then you’re talking about safety. I think just with the way the season’s going, you want to try to get the games in, because eventually there’s going to be a pile-up, and you’re not going to be able to play anymore. It is what it is.”

Bonk ended up the pitcher of record in both games for South Lyon, the beneficiary of the three-run rally in the top of the fifth to tie it up at 5-5. She came in to relieve second-game starter Lena Monteith, who was having trouble gripping the ball in the rain.

“She has bigger hands than Lena, so with the wet ball, we figured it would help with the grip a little bit more,” DePaulis said, admitting he can’t always tell right away with Bonk whether or not she’s on in a given game. 

“Alexis is a gamer, so whenever we put her out there, I know she’s going to compete. Sure, she has her good and her bad days, but most of the time, you know you’re going to get a pretty good effort out of her.”

Bonk can’t always tell, either.

“It depends. Sometimes, in the first inning, I’m different. Depends on the day,” the junior said, admitting it’s great when she is on like the first game. “Feels pretty good. Can’t complain.”

She was dreadfully consistent in the first game, striking out three batters in the first, second, fourth, fifth and sixth innings. The only two outs from balls in play — groundouts by Shay Ciaramitaro (third inning) and Kaycee Loehr (seventh inning) — were slow-rollers to the right side of the infield. 

Jorden Mickel led off the fifth with a sharp single, but the only other two balls in play came off the bat of McKenzie Knight, who laced a comebacker off Bonk’s glove in the first, then broke up the shutout in the seventh with a leadoff homer to center. 

"She’s been on. She’s been on fire this year. She’s really been throwing well. Her rise ball was working, and she was commanding the strike zone. Not a lot of balls,” DePaulis said. “And when she does that, she’s really hard to beat.”

Fifteen of the strikeouts were swinging, as the Knights had difficulty laying off the rise ball. 

“In the first game, for sure, we talked about how we had to be disciplined at the plate, and lay off the rise, but that’s easier said than done. But she puts the ball where she wants it. She did a good job jamming us sometimes, too,” Woodard said. “Bonk’s a really good pitcher, and so is Lena. It’s probably the best two pitchers we’ve faced so far this year, so hopefully we’ll learn from that, and get better.”

Monteith’s two-run single put the Lions on the board in the third, then they expanded the lead to 3-0 with back-to-back doubles by Kinsey Nally and Madison Porter. Kendra Blackie’s two-two-run double made it 5-0 int he fifth, then Nally drove home the Lions’ final run with a groundout. 

South Lyon jumped out in front in the nightcap, too, getting ahead 2-0 on Nally’s two-run double in the top of the fourth, as the rain was just starting to pick up. Northern took advantage, scoring five runs in the bottom of the inning to take its first lead of the day.

Allyssa DiPrima’s RBI double got the Knights on the board, then two runs scored on a wild pitch, making it 3-2 Northern, and forcing DePaulis into the pitching change. 

Jenna Kroll’s bases-loaded, two-out, two-run single put the Knights up 5-2 before Bonk could get out of the jam with her 20th strikeout of the day.

The pitcher would get the Lions’ answering rally started in the top of the fifth, with a one-out double, scoring on an RBI single by Monteith. Blackie’s triple scored Monteith to make it 5-4, then a wild pitch plated Blackie with the game-tying run. 

Bonk retired the side in order — albeit with a long fly out by Kiana Morgan to the warning track in right-center for the third out — to keep it tied after five innings.

For the Knights, rallying after the lackluster offensive showing in the first game was big. 

“It’s big. We’re a young team, new, trying to figure ourselves out, and to learn,” Woodard said. “A lot of them have a lot of experience, play a lot of travel ball, so I think being able to come back will give them some confidence.”