For a third straight season, the Auburn Riverside fastpitch team is crowned the queens of the NPSL after a 12-2 win May 9 over crosstown rival Auburn Mountainview.
“When we’re swinging well, we’re unstoppable,” Saige Aarstad said.
Dating back to 2020, the Ravens have gone 26-0 in league play over the past three seasons. Their last loss in a league game was back on April 29, 2019, when the Auburn Trojans beat them 6-1. That’s 1,471 days since Riverside has lost a league game.
“Every year you always have preseason goals and winning the league is your initial goal because that sets you up for the postseason,” said Head Coach Bryce Strand. “Every year it’s a sweat and it’s tough. But it feels great.”
“We work really hard in the weight room and get to know each other every day, which makes us more connected and bonded on the field,” Aarstad said.
The win to clinch this year’s NPSL league title came against Auburn Mountainview, who besides losing to Kentwood and Decatur, had won nine games in a row. Even in this ballgame, the two runs the Lions scored were in the first inning. A pair of doubles from Taylor Minton and Mia Heigh were the equation for the first run — and Heigh stole home on a first and third play.
“We know how strong they are offensively and we wanted to match their energy and got an extra one, which was good. They’re gonna battle through and find gaps in the defense and make you work, “ Strand said about the Lions.
Riverside didn’t waste any time responding to the Lions. In their half of the first, they took the lead with the first four batters reaching base without recording an out. Kaylee Walker scored Bailee Brader on a single, and Saige Aarstad drove in two, giving Riverside a 3-2 lead after one complete inning.
“Our coach said if we win each individual inning, we’ll win the game, and that’s what we did,” Aarstad said.
Danica Butler settled in after a rocky first inning. She retired nine out of the next 10 batters. The one Lion who got on base reached on a Riverside error in the fourth.
“I give a lot of credit to Danica and our defense for making pitches and making them string hits together,” Strand said.
After two rocky games against legit opponents in Decatur and Kentwood, the Ravens took it to another top team. That is something the offense has to do at this point in the season.
In the second, the Ravens put up another three spot. Aubree Muxen and Lexi Vircks scored two of the three runs with RBI singles, as the second run of the frame scored on an error.
Going into the fourth, the score was 6-2 Ravens, and in the bottom of the inning, Auburn Riverside sent 11 batters to the plate. With one out in the inning, Vircks hit a bases loaded triple, scoring three runs, and broke the game open. Vircks scored from third on a single from Kennedy Martinson. A Lion error allowed Martinson to come around and score, giving Riverside a 11-2 lead. A sacrifice fly to center field off the bat of Muxen scored Addison Opsahl for the game’s final run.
It’s the 11th time the Ravens have scored 10 or more runs this season. Three Ravens had multi-RBI games, five players recorded more than one hit, and eight players reached base in the win. Having a complete lineup is something that the team takes pride in.
“There’s been games where the bottom of our lineup has carried our players and time where the top of the order has. That’s a real credit to our players and keys to the team … we’re pretty solid throughout the order,” Strand said.
The Ravens take on Fife HS before making their way to the postseason, which begins May 18.
“We got to treat every game like it’s just another game. Every game is a chance for us to be together and play to the best of our abilities,” Stand said.
Last season the Ravens made the state tournament and lost in the third round of the losers bracket.
“I’m just really excited to be with these teammates. We’re all really close and we’ll have a lot of fun together,” Aarstad said.