Raider rally, walk-off ‘a breakthrough’May 9, 2014
By JOSEPH FANELLI
Herald Sports Writer
HUNTINGBURG — It took less than five seconds for Wood Memorial hitter Morgan Bailey’s two-run shot to clear right field.
And it took just about as long for the Southridge softball team to forget it.
It’s the trait Raider coach Stephanie Fleck has been trying to instill into her players — a short memory and a strong reserve. It’s the best remedy to survive ballgames and also the best answer to a season in which, before Thursday’s tilt against Wood Memorial in Huntingburg, the Raiders had racked up just two wins.
But short memory means no memory, so even after Wood Memorial broke a 1-all tie in the seventh with Bailey’s home run, Southridge calmly responded. The first three Raider batters all reached base, and the last two laced doubles. Kassidy Mundy’s walk-off double to left-center field scored the winning run and an improbable 4-3 win, their first victory since April 17.
“We never gave up,” Mundy said. “People know that we haven’t been winning as much as we would like to, but they shouldn’t underestimate us because we’ve still got all the heart out there, and I know we can do it. I have faith in us and I know our team does (too).”
“That was huge,” Fleck added. “This is something we’ve learned over the season where we just need to push through. ... Stay up, push through adversity.”
Faith comes in handy when you’re a team that hadn’t scored or lasted a full seven innings in its last three games. But losing affords an extra aggressiveness, and after yielding one run in the first, Southridge (3-10) tried to pounce on every scoring opportunity through the next five innings. And those chances were at a minimum as the Raiders totaled just four hits before launching three in the seventh.
Twice in the first six innings, a Raider baserunner was caught trying to score on an extra-base hit. Brianna Lammers didn’t hesitate for a moment when rounding third after a single from Robin Hanebutt in the second, but was sniped at home plate to retire the inning. Hanebutt (3-for-3) similarly showed no signs of slowing in the fifth inning when she reached second on a stand-up double and immediately darted to snag an extra base. The junior landed safely at third, but after a Trojan relay throw sailed high, she sprinted for home, not realizing how close the ball lay to third base. She was tagged out in a pickle.
“We just want to be aggressive and any chance we can get to score a base, we want it,” Mundy said. “Just take that extra base and get that run.”
So for Fleck and Co., no regrets.
“I always like to be aggressive. You put pressure on the defense,” Fleck said. “The (girls) love it. Some of them really like baserunning, they like to be aggressive.”
The assertiveness finally paid off in the fifth. Maisy Eckert, pinch-running for Stapleton who reached on an error, moved to second on a bunt from Cassie Matheis and advanced to third after a wild pitch. She narrowly ducked under the tag at home after Mallory Peter rolled a soft grounder to short to tie the game at 1.
In the seventh, Bailey’s homer sank the Raiders into a 3-1 hole and broke up a solid pitching performance from Stapleton, who had scattered six hits over 61⁄3 innings with zero extra-base hits up to that point. Mundy (1-2) took the mound and retired the side, but not before a brief but compelling message from the Raider catcher before Southridge had even retired the inning.
“(Kendyl McKeough) comes up and goes, ‘This is it. They’ve got two runs and now we’ve got two more to score,’” Hanebutt said. “So just something like that kept us all together. We came in (and) we got the job done.”
After Hanebutt reached first on a single to center, the next three Raiders all blasted the first pitch. Taylor Uppencamp (2-for-4) reached first on an error and then McKeough knocked in the game-tying runs with a line-drive double past the shortstop. Mundy, who stepped to the plate 0-of-3 for the evening, clinched the game the next at-bat.
Fleck said the message to her team before the final rally was simple — just “believe and let’s do it,” she said. The results were promising, and Fleck entertained her team afterward with a victory slide in the outfield, which Hanebutt said is hopefully the first sampling of many more.
“We’re definitely starting to work together and keep our heads up and pull each other together when we need to,” Hanebutt said. “This is definitely a breakthrough tonight.”
Contact Joseph Fanelli
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