|Union City errors seal fate in 9th |
It has been said that the last three outs are the toughest ones to get.
Union City’s Maddie Harris (right) backs up Allison Bruff on a fly ball during the Lady Twister’s season-ending loss to Huntingdon Monday afternoon.
For Union City, the first out of the ninth inning was the most difficult to come by in the team’s 2-1 extra-inning season-ending defeat to Huntingdon in the semifinals of the Region 7A Tournament Monday afternoon.
Just moments after taking a 1-0 advantage in the top of the ninth over a team that drubbed the Lady Twisters 12-0 at the same juncture last season, the locals experienced difficulty in getting the first out and, as a result, H’don was able to rally past the locals and escape with the slim victory.
To lead that ninth inning off, the Fillies (28-6) got their first hit of the game off Karly Hollis, a single by Heather Odom to leftfield. Erica Sturkie’s error while attempting to field the ball allowed Odom to reach second.
Odom then moved to third base on a passed ball just before scoring the game-tying run on a fly ball that was dropped.
“Going into the ninth inning, I told Larry (Speed) that we need to get this first out,” UC head coach Shane Sisco said. “A lot of times in a game as close as this one was, if you cannot get that first out and a runner gets on, it could put a team like ours in unfamiliar territory and that’s what I think happened.
“Once that happens, it seems that more mistakes are bound to follow.”
Third-place hitter Keliea Sullivan drove in Odom after she roped a fly ball that centerfielder Paige Fisher had in her glove for a moment before it popped free.
With Sullivan representing the winning run, Hollis got an out via a pop-up before an error by second baseman Allison Bruff while fielding a sacrifice attempt by Brittany Bolen put a pair in scoring position with one out.
Sisco then elected to leave first base open with Cassidy Morgan stepping into the batter’s box.
Morgan dropped down a bunt that was fielded by Hollis. The UC hurler looked Sullivan back at third base before throwing to first for the out.
However, as soon as Hollis released the ball in the direction of first, Sullivan broke for the plate and she was able to slide in safely for the deciding run.
“I had an idea of what they were going to do,” Sisco said after the game. “We fielded the ball cleanly and got the out; I just think we may have let her get a little too far off third.
“Regardless, our team did everything right on that play and that’s just one of those runs where they earned it. Unlike last year, when they put a 12-0 beating on us, we showed them that we belong on the field with a team of this caliber.”
Union City (23-16) — which set a school record for wins in a season this spring — proved it belonged in the same class as H’don through the first eight innings with Hollis locked in a pitcher’s duel with the eventual winning hurler Brooke Thomas, who finished the game with 16 strikeouts.
In the top of the ninth, UC finally broke through with Fisher poking a single up the middle to lead off the inning.
Olivia Arnold sacrificed Fisher to second before Corey Anne Youree went down on strikes swinging.
With two outs and the go-ahead run at second, senior Allison McCullough dropped an RBI single into rightfield to give UC the advantage.
Yet, victory was not in the cards for the Lady Tornadoes with Huntingdon able to rally and take the triumph in the home half of the ninth.
The game was the final one in a Union City jersey for McCullough, Jade Davis and Maddie Harris.
Harris was responsible for UC’s first hit — a bunt single in the second inning.
“I’m going to miss each of these seniors for different reasons,” Sisco commented after the victory. “Jade filled a hole at third base, Allison was our team leader in stolen bases and second in runs batted in and batting average this season and Maddie was excellent in the outfield.
“They all leave big shoes to fill, but I hope they’ve helped to get this program in the right direction, once and for all.”
Sports reporter Kenneth Coker can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.