Patriots rally to defeat Raiders in PAC battle

Photos by Traci Westcott/The Herald
Heritage Hills' Hayley Waninger, left, and Kyla Peter high-five in the outfield during Friday's softball game in Lincoln City. Heritage Hills defeated Southridge 8-5 after they trailed 5-2 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning. The Patriots scored three runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings to complete the comeback victory. For more photos from the game, click here.


LINCOLN CITY — Pressure situations aren’t anything new to Heritage Hills’ senior first baseman Lauren Caswell.

In Friday night’s Pocket Athletic Conference battle against rival Southridge, the Southeastern Illinois softball commit found herself in yet another big situation.

With the game tied 5-5 in the bottom of the sixth inning and a runner on second base, Caswell did what she does best. She ripped a double right back up the middle that scored a Patriot runner to take a 6-5 lead, a lead Heritage Hills wouldn’t relinquish as they defeated the Raiders 8-5.

“Since I’ve been in so many situations where they need me, I just know that with my leadership role I have to get that run in,” Caswell said. “I had to focus ten times more during that at-bat.”

Both teams can admit that it wasn’t necessarily the cleanest game for either side as several errors caused runs to score for both Heritage Hills and Southridge.

While there was definitely some frustration from Patriot head coach Joe Asbury about mental mistakes during the game, he was proud of the fight the team showed in battling back after trailing by three runs.

“We kept fighting even when we got down, it was really an interesting game but it was a lot of fun,” Asbury said. “Both coaches were mad at times, both teams had fans that were mad at some point but at the end of the game you see the kids taking pictures and hugging one another. It’s a fun rivalry when these two teams play.”

Even though Southridge head coach Scott Buening was a little disappointed with the final score, he was very pleased with the effort and drive the Raiders played with for all seven innings.

“We had girls diving for balls, girls making tremendous catches — I was totally pleased with the effort of our girls,” Buening said. “I saw a lot of positives, I love their aggressiveness and the things they’re doing. To win games like this, we just need to make a few more plays.”

Heritage Hills (9-3-1, 3-1) scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the second inning as Sydney Richards scored Mallory Garrison with a sacrifice fly to put the Patriots up 1-0.

However, it didn’t take long for Southridge (8-4, 2-2) to answer. They nearly tied things up in the third inning after Mikah Goeppner kicked the inning off with a single. However, she was later called out at home plate.

The Raiders tied it in the top of the fourth after a run scored on an error. They later would go on to take a 2-1 lead in the inning after another Heritage Hills error.

The errors continued to add up for both teams as the Patriots tied things up in the bottom of the fourth after Kyla Peter scored on an error.

But just after Heritage Hills had made things even, Southridge had its biggest inning of the night. After Briley King and Amanda Brewer kicked off the top of the fifth with consecutive singles and Kennedy Nalley was intentionally walked to load the bases, Peyton Nalley hit a fly ball to drive in King to give Southridge a 3-2 lead. A few plays later, Rachel Trent hit a screaming two-RBI single that put the Raiders up 5-2 at the end of the inning.

Trailing 5-2, the Patriots knew they had to put some crooked numbers on the scoreboard.

Southridge's Peyton Nalley leads off third base as Heritage Hills' Brianna Quinn charges a bunt during Friday's softball game in Lincoln City. For more photos from the game, click here.

“I feel like we became more confident in ourselves,” said Caswell about the Patriots final two innings of the night. “We basically said we just have to relax — yeah, their name might say Southridge but we just had to erase that from our mind and pretend like we’re playing against whoever.”

The plan seemed to work — Heritage Hills made it 5-3 with a run scoring on an error and then Peter drove in Brianna Quinn with an RBI single to make it 5-4. The Pats tied things up later in the inning as Summer Weedman scored Caswell to make it 5-5.

After Heritage Hills’ ace Emma Eubank shut down the Raiders in order in the top of the sixth, it was the Patriots turn for a chance to take the lead.

As it turns out, they’d do jus tthat. After Eubank was hit by a pitch to start the inning, Caswell’s RBI double gave the Patriots a 6-5 lead but they weren’t done there. Garrison and Haley Waninger both notched singles while Mariah Zoglman’s RBI single made it 7-5 and Heritage Hills’ final run was scored on a wild pitch to make it 8-5.

While the Raiders did get two baserunners in the final inning, Eubank was able to avoid any big at-bats and shut things down to secure the victory for the Patriots.

“I just tried to make my pitches and trust in my team,” said Eubank about the final inning on the mound. “We believed we could go out on top so we knew we just had to have each other’s backs.”

Eubank had 12 strikeouts on the mound for the Patriots, her third game with at least 10 strikeouts this season. Garrison, Peter, Zoglman and Caswell all had multiple hits.

Brewer, Trent, Goeppner, King, Macie Marley and Kennedy Nalley all had base knocks for the Raiders. Lydia Genet took the loss on the mound in a battle against her former team.

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