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Wild ending sees Knights fall to Tigers

TAG: Southwood’s Madelyn Turner (right) tags out a Peru baserunner during Monday’s game against the Tigers.

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

PERU – The first five innings of Monday night’s TRC softball game between Peru and Southwood looked like a typical, cagey conference scrap between two teams hovering around the .500 mark.

Innings six and seven, however, took both teams on a wild ride, ending with a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch that resulted in the Tigers scrapping out an 8-7 win over the Knights.

Southwood head coach Carl Pace said the team struggled to get hits early on but once they did string things together the game opened up in the final innings.

“We were trying to get to Peru’s first pitcher (Graycee Ansari), who looked good and we didn’t do a lot against her,” Pace said. “We were trying to keep the game close and look for an opportunity.

“Once they realized that the Peru girls could be hit, it passed the torch to the next girl that we could do this and the girls picked up on that. One thing led to another and a key hit or two started to come in.”

Peru got the first run of the game in the bottom of the first inning after Maegan Sinkovics was hit by a pitch, moved to second on Courtlynn Crowe’s sac bunt and scored on an Ansari single.

The Tigers missed a chance to score with the bases loaded in the second inning after a pair of fielder’s choice plays saw the lead runner out at home on the first and the final out of the inning on the second.

Caitlyn Mongosa would get things rolling in the third inning with a two-out single, moving to second base when Kylie Wolfe drew a walk and scored on an Abby Martin single to double the hosts’ advantage.

Southwood finally got on the base paths in the fourth inning after MaKenna Pace lanced a triple to the center field fence and scored on a passed ball to cut the deficit in half.

Back-to-back singles from Tabitha Thomas and Keagan Simpson threatened to get a rally going but Ansari, who before the triple had retired 11-straight batters to start the game, got a strikeout to end the threat.

Makenlie Lambert, who started in the circle for the Knights, gave way to Pace in the bottom half of the inning with the junior avoiding a pair of tricky spots to keep the score at 2-1 heading into the sixth inning.

It was at this point that the game, which had been tightly contested, deviated hard off its original course and turned into a wild sprint to the finish.

Ansari was replaced in the circle by Karsynn Beattie, who promptly was hit for back-to-back singles by Kassity Simpson and Madelyn Turner with Pace bringing in one run on a groundout and Thomas the other with a sac fly to right field, giving Southwood a 3-2 lead.

Peru answered with a flourish, starting with Haven Wolfe reaching on an error and a Birchfield opposite-field single. Sinkovics loaded the bases on a fielder’s choice where all runners reached safely, setting up Crowe to plate three with a double to the left field fence.

Crowe later scored on a wild pitch and though the Tigers would get runners on again, the hosts did not add to the lead but did hold a 6-3 advantage going into the final inning of play.

“Peru got a couple of little bloopers to fall in, which is part of the game,” Pace said about Peru’s rally. “We had an errant throw which tends to lead to a big inning. We needed to minimize shooting ourselves in the foot there.”

Kayla Mays and Aaliyah Douglass singled to open the seventh before Erin McGouldrick hit a low lob towards first base. Danielle Wenger got under the ball but had trouble securing it and the ball eventually hit the dirt and kicked away.

Initially, McGouldrick was ruled out on a catch with the ball being lost in transition but upon appeal, the ruling was overturned and McGouldrick ruled safe.

A counter appeal was then launched for an infield fly rule to be enforced but that appeal was turned down.

While the melee at first was taking place, Mays scored and Douglass moved to third base and once the conferences had finished, Lambert put down a sac bunt to move McGouldrick to second base.

Kassity Simpson followed with a grounder to third base that resulted in an errant throw back to home plate, allowing the first run to score and, as the ball left the field of play, an additional run came in, tying the game at 6-6.

Pace capped the chaotic half inning with a double to center field that plated Simpson, giving Southwood a 7-6 lead heading into the final half inning of play.

The Tigers needed just five pitches to tie the game back up.

Haven Wolfe grounded out to third base for the first out while Mandy Birchfield followed with a triple to the center field fence and Sinkovics brought her in with a single to level the score at 7-7.

Crowe battled for a walk on nine pitches and after Ansari flew out, Mongosa followed with a walk to load the bases for Kylie Wolfe.

Pace came too far inside on a 2-1 count and plunked Wolfe in the arm, resulting in the winning run being forced home to cap off a bombastic final two innings of play.

Despite the loss, Pace said the team stayed level-headed during the final two innings and found some spirit in the end.

“They just never quit,” Pace said. “They realized we were very equally matched and no matter what happened on the field or things they couldn’t control, they did know what they could control. They went out there admirably, put the bat on the ball and let the chips fall where they may. We fell a little bit short but we saw them fight the last few innings and they never gave up, which was big for them.”

Southwood finishes its TRC slate with a trip to leaders North Miami Wednesday night.

Pace wanted to see more of the reaction the team had in the last two innings spread out across a full game when they take to the field Wednesday.

“I want to see them carry on what they did here,” Pace said. “We want to see that fight, that positivity and never-die attitude every inning.

“We want to win those little battles every inning and at the end of the day, maybe we’ll win that war.”