Games between good teams are often won early. That statement was put to the test on Tuesday afternoon as the Lady Pirates softball team took on a hot Tusky Valley softball team.
The Trojans have picked some huge wins over the past two weeks against strong teams from Strasburg and East Canton and played a solid game against state–ranked Sandy Valley on Monday.
“This year’s Tusky Valley team is not a team to take casually,” Garaway head coach Dennis Koshmider said.
On senior day in Zoar, the Pirates were able to build an early 6-1 lead, but that lead was barely enough for the Pirates when the Trojans came battling back. However, Garaway was able to hang on, winning 6-5.
Things looked great early for the Lady P’s as Cassy Donaldson hit a line-drive single to start off the game for Garaway. Kallie Regula followed with a bunt single, and Zoe Johnson moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Maddie Steiner singled in a run to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead. Trojan starter Maddie Maurer then worked out of the inning with a fly ball and ground out.
Tusky Valley’s first two batters in the bottom of the first were struck out by Pirates starter Kori Gutheridge. Sage Peters singled to get on board ahead of Maurer, who helped her own cause when she drilled a single into the right-center gap to score Peters, tying the game at one a piece.
Janell Mast drew a walk to lead off the second inning. Mast moved over to second base on a sacrifice bunt from Sarah Billman, and Chelsi Rothacher followed and smashed a triple to the fence in left field, driving in Mast. Donaldson came to the plate and attempted to execute the squeeze play. The bunt was a bit firm and was quickly fielded by Maurer just outside the circle. Maurer made a fake throw attempt to first in an effort to pick Rothacher off at third. Rothacher didn’t take the bait and scampered back ahead of the throw with Donaldson reaching safely on the play.
With runners on the corners and the infield playing in, Kallie Regula looped a single over the infield, scoring Rothacher. Zoe Johnson ended the day in the circle for Maurer when she singled in Donaldson for a 4-1 lead.
Sage Peters took over the pitching duties from Maurer. Maddie Steiner almost poked a single between first and second, but Keegan Selinsky made a nice grab to get the out at first. It was a productive out, however, because Regula scored on the play, giving Garaway a 5-1 lead.
Gutheridge worked a perfect inning in the bottom of the second, and then she came to the plate and was brushed by a pitch to lead off the third. In hindsight the ball hitting her jersey would turn out to be the difference in the game.
Jenna Shoup entered the game as a courtesy runner and was sacrificed over to second by Mast. After a line out off the bat of Billman, Rothacher drew a walk. Donaldson hit a sharp grounder to short, and the ball ricocheted off the defender’s glove for an error, scoring Shoup from second base. Garaway had two runners in scoring position, but Peters ended the threat by fanning Regula.
From there on out the Lady P’s simply had to hang on, which was easier said than done.
The Trojans connected for back-to-back singles with two outs in the third but were unable to go any further. Neither team threatened in the fourth, which led to a key fifth inning.
Peters struck out the first two Pirates batters before Rothacher hit a deep double off the right-field fence, missing a homer by the narrowest of margins. Rothacher was stranded in scoring position when Peters was able to get Donaldson on a grounder to third base.
Momentum quickly shifted to the Tusky Valley side of the field in the bottom of the fifth on three pitches. On the first pitch Brooke Albaugh lofted a single that barely made it over the outstretched glove of a leaping Zoe Johnson at short. Selinsky followed with a perfect bunt single that barely stayed fair on the third-base line. Abby Dillon followed and bunted the first pitch out front of the plate. Regula pounced on the ball and threw the ball just a bit high for Emma Gee at first base, the throw sailing into right field, allowing two runs to score while Dillon ended up at third. Dillon scored on a wild pitch to cut the Pirate lead to 6-4.
The Pirates settled down on defense and finished up the inning with three straight ground outs, but three unearned runs had changed the game.
Both teams threatened but came up empty in the sixth, setting the stage for a fantastic finish in the final frame.
Peters made it look easy in the seventh when she fielded a slow rolling comebacker and added two strikeouts to set the Pirates down in order, setting up a wild bottom of the seventh.
Tusky Valley brought the top of the lineup to the plate and immediately put the pressure on Garaway. Abbey Dillon dropped a double into the left-center gap to start off the inning. Megan Stotzer drew a walk to put the tying run on with no outs. Peters, arguably the top Trojan hitter, smacked a liner into left field, which was caught by Mya Gee, holding both runners at their bases.
Maurer did her best to salvage senior day for her team when she ripped a single into center field. Dillon scored on the play to cut the Pirates lead to one. More importantly Garaway held the runners at first and second base, something that would prove to be crucial as Amber Hooks came to the plate.
Down 0-2 in the count, Hooks hit a deep fly to center field. With Stoltzer tagging up on the play, Rothacher caught the ball and fired to third base. Stoltzer beat the throw, but in the opinion of the Garaway side of the field, she had left base too early. The Pirates appealed the play. After a brief umpire discussion, Garaway was awarded the out. The unusual double play ended the game and provided Garaway with a 6-5 win.
The win improved the Lady Pirates to 11-5.