UTICA — The Utica Redskins fell just inches short of defeating the visiting Mount Gilead Indians, falling by the score of 6-5 in eight innings on Thursday in non-league high school softball action.
“I’m really proud of how our girls played tonight,” said Utica coach Kayla Shomaker. “We showed a ton of resilience.”
Shayni Connolly pitched seven innings for the Redskins, allowing four earned runs.
Utica fell in a 2-0 hole right away when Mount Gilead catcher Mikayla McAvoy and teammate Kierston Pangborn each drove in a first inning run.
The Redskins came right back in the bottom of the opening frame. Lareese Marston (2-for-4) launched a triple off the fence. Second baseman Kalyn Scott (3-for-4 and two runs scored) followed with a single to score Marston. Catcher Bri Nelson also singled. Third baseman Erin Rodgers (2-for-4 with three RBI) smashed a 2-run triple to the fence in right-centerfield to give the Redskins a 3-2 lead. Later in the inning, Rodgers would scamper home on a two-out error, giving the Redskins a 4-2 advantage.
“We came out hitting the ball very well,” said Shomaker. “Mount Gilead is a very good team and we played with them well.”
That lead would hold until McAvoy (3-for-5 with three RBI) lauched the game’s only homer — a 2-run shot with a runner aboard to tie the game at 4.
The Redskins pulled several defensive gems in the game, including a nice over the shoulder catch by left fielder Alex Preston in the sixth. Earlier in the game, Preston made a nice running grab despite colliding with centerfielder Josie Layman. Utica shortstop Aubrey Mendez made a great backhanded stab of a Caylor Arnold grounder in the second inning, throwing to Scott to force Mount Gilead’s Bailey Gompf at second. Mendez snagged a pop fly later in the game, crashing into Scott and hanging on to the ball. Mount Gilead had 13 runners stranded in the game.
“Our defense played great,” said Shomaker. “We had some great plays in the outfield. We made some great plays to take away lead runners there. On the left side of my infield and all around. Our catcher was working hard and we got great pitching.”
Amanda Bush put the Indians ahead in the top of the seventh with an RBI to score pinch runner Micayla Tuggle.
The Redskins, however, were not finished. Scott singled with one out. Nelson followed with a walk and was replaced at first by pinch runner Abi Hays, who didn’t start the game due to a sore arm. With runners at first and second, Rodgers got her second big hit of the game — a double to right center. Scott scored easily and Hays was chugging in all the way from first. Her slide was not quite enough as McAvoy tagged her out at the plate, but the score was tied, 5-5.
In the Indians’ half of the eighth, Kristin Staley reached on an error. With one out, it was Smith and McAvoy again. This time Smith drilled a single to left. With runners at first and second, McAvoy grounded hard between third and short to score Staley with the eventual winning run.
“It all came down to timely hits,” said Shoemaker. “They got a couple when they needed them. There’s nothing bad I can say about this, except that it would have been nice to have one more run or two.”