Palmer Ridge gets memorable pitching help in 'Go Gold for Childhood Cancer Awareness' game

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Photo - Palmer Ridge sophomore Sara Lynch (22) pitches in the first inning. The Palmer Ridge Bears defeated the Lewis-Palmer Rangers 10-0 in 5 innings of girl's softball on Tuesday, October 3, 2017 at Palmer Ridge High School. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing
Palmer Ridge sophomore Sara Lynch (22) pitches in the first inning. The Palmer Ridge Bears defeated the Lewis-Palmer Rangers 10-0 in 5 innings of girl's softball on Tuesday, October 3, 2017 at Palmer Ridge High School. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing

MONUMENT - Eleven-year-old Ali, wearing a too-big Palmer Ridge softball jersey that matched the blue tulle wrapped around her crutches, sent an underhanded pitch over the plate from the edge of the circle.

"I practiced," she said, "with my mom and sister."

"I'm impressed," sophomore Sara Lynch, Palmer Ridge's starting pitcher Tuesday, said. "I couldn't get it over the first time I tried."

Monument resident Ali - dealing with osteosarcoma, bone cancer in her leg - was the guest of honor at the Bears' 'Go Gold for Childhood Cancer Awareness' game, throwing the first pitch and serving as an honorary bat girl as Palmer Ridge closed out Lewis-Palmer 10-0 in five innings.

Ali Schnelker, age 11, poses for a photo in the third inning as the Palmer Ridge Bears hosted the Lewis-Palmer Rangers in softball in the Go Gold for Childhood Cancer Awareness game. The Palmer Ridge Bears defeated the Lewis-Palmer Rangers 10-0 in 6 innings of girl's softball on Tuesday, October 3, 2017 at Palmer Ridge High School. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing 

In the bustling Palmer Ridge dugout, Ali's younger sister was full of questions - is the dugout actually dug out? What's an inning? - but Ali took in the game quietly. She wanted to know everyone's names.

"It's cool to watch all these girls do it," Ali said.

Propelled by a four-run third inning and some ambitious base running, the Bears (11-6, 3-4 Pikes Peak) made quick work of their rivalry game. They're right on the RPI cutoff and need to win their season finale Wednesday against Sierra, with possibly a little help from their conference foes, to make the postseason.

"It's been that way for us this year," coach Daniel Tarwater said. "It's been an up-and-down season. We've either been run-ruled or doing the run rule."

Sam Patterson scored two runs to go with an RBI, and Mckenzie Siskind added two RBIs. Lynch added five to her league-leading 31 stolen bases through 17 games, and Bella Converse and Carson Saabye added three each. As a team, Palmer Ridge had 22.

Lynch threw a three-hitter and improved to 11-5 on the mound on a day with added meaning. Osteosarcoma - which tends to occur in children and young adults - affected her family.

"One of my mom's best friends' son actually had this cancer, and he died from it," Lynch said. "I have a close connection and it's cool that we're doing this game."

Tarwater said the childhood cancer awareness event was all the players' idea.

"Ali was super happy and it was awesome to see her out here," Palmer Ridge junior third baseman Kourtni Wilmes said. "It was cool that she got to be in jersey with us, and taking part, enjoying the game from our point of view."

Though Lynch saw a natural at the plate, Ali said softball may not be for her.

"I can't with the type of surgery I got," she said. "I could change my surgery option to get my surgery redone. I'm more of a swimmer though."

Ali had the tumor removed from her leg, but she has another surgery coming up. She has to have her port, which helps during the administering of chemotherapy, removed, and a procedure to halt the growth on her other leg.

All the better for freestyle, her favorite stroke. And maybe some more well-placed pitches.

"It was really fun," she said.