While Cardington was able to parlay an eight-run first inning to a 12-3 win over host Highland on Tuesday, things weren’t nearly as easy for the Pirates on Wednesday when they hosted the rematch between the two teams.
The Scots led for much of the game until a four-run sixth inning pushed Cardington past them for an 8-5 win to remain unbeaten.
“We knew it’d be a struggle,” said Cardington head coach Tod Brininger. “We got on them last night early and that set the tone, but they’re a good team. I’m thrilled with how they reacted when down.”
Cardington had to come back from deficits at three separate times to claim the win, including a 5-4 deficit after the Scots tallied a pair of runs in the top of the fifth frame. While the Pirates wouldn’t be able to score in their half of the fifth, after Casey Bertke pitched a perfect sixth inning, the team rallied in the sixth.
After Highland pitcher Lucy Smith recorded a quick out, Taiylor Hubley and Kierson George had back-to-back singles and a bunt by Dana Bertke also turned into a single to load the bases. Baylee Adams then connected for a long double to score two and leave runners on second and third with the Pirates in front by a 6-5 count.
A wild pitch by Smith brought in Dana Bertke and moved Adams to third. Chelsey Miller then sacrificed to score Adams and put Cardington up by three.
Casey Bertke then nailed down the win — although not without some drama. Haven Farson and Mattie Ruehrmund started off the inning with back-to-back singles to bring the winning run to the plate. However, the Pirate pitcher was able to induce three straight pop balls to end the game.
“I believe in our girls,” said Scot coach Shelly Hornsby. “After the game last night, I think they were determined to come out and give them a game. We had a few errors and that costs when a game is that close.”
Highland struck first in the contest, tallying a run in the top of the first. Savannah Fitzpatrick, Liz Jensen and Farson opened the game with back-to-back-to-back singles, with Farson’s driving in Fitzpatrick. More damage could have been done, but Jensen was thrown out after trying to take home on a single by Carney.
Smith got the first two Pirates out in the bottom of the inning, but Adams smashed a solo home run to tie the game.
It remained 1-1 until the top of the third inning when Fitzpatrick led off with a single. Jensen hit a ground ball, but a throwing error allowed her to take first and moved Fitzpatrick to third. Farson then tallied her second RBI of the game on a single.
Casey Bertke was able to work through a jam with Scot runners on first and third and no one out, getting a pop out, strikeout and groundout to limit Highland to one run.
However, the Scots would score again in the fourth inning. With two outs, Gena West and Fitzpatrick tallied singles. Jensen then hit a grounder, but another throwing error brought in West to make it 3-1.
That lead would not hold up for long, though, as Highland errors led to three Pirate runs. Paige Clinger was walked to open the inning and Riley Burchett reached on an error. With one out and runners on first and third, Hubley drove in a run and reached first on a bunt single. Then, with two outs, Dana Bertke hit a fly ball that wasn’t caught, allowing another run to score. Adams drew a walk and a passed ball brought a third run across the plate to give Cardington a 4-3 advantage for their first lead of the game.
“We worked hard on a lot of things, but you can’t make errors on a team that’s going to put the ball in play,” said Hornsby.
Highland wouldn’t waste any time in regaining their lead, teething two in the fifth. Farson hit a double to open the inning and was driven in by a one-out double by Carney. She advanced to third on a ground ball by Morgan Wilhelm and came home on a single by Brooklyn Geiger.
That 5-4 lead would be erased by Cardington’s big sixth inning, though, as the Pirates picked up a big KMAC win.
“We had a little chat in the sixth before we went out in the field,” said Brininger. “This is what we play for. High-pressure. It’s ultra-competitive with Highland softball and we circle the calendar when we play them and I think they do the same.”
While Hornsby was disappointed in the game’s result, she was proud of her team’s effort — especially after Tuesday’s lopsided loss.
“I’m proud of the girls and how they kept their heads up and what they achieved tonight even though we didn’t get a win,” she said. “I’m thankful for this team and the efforts they give.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS