Mauldin 7 Mann 5

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It was a veritable who’s who of upstate softball as fans packed the stands to see the rematch of the top two teams in region II AAAA.  Mauldin edged out Mann 2-1 in the initial contest, but that game was played without the services of Mann’s pitching ace Leslie Jury as she was out with back spasms.  So even though Mauldin had leaped ahead of Mann in the rankings, there was still much to prove as much to themselves as to everyone else.  Adding to the atmosphere, the theme of the night was breast cancer awareness. Each team donned pink jerseys and socks and the game balls were also pink.  Breast cancer survivor Tarah Smith did the honors of throwing out the first pitch to start this highly anticipated game.

            As Jury toed the rubber in the top of the first to face the Mav’s leadoff hitter Brianna Davis, all indications were that this would be another low scoring affair dominated by pitching and defense.  But in what would be an early indication of how this night would go for the Mann hurler, Jury uncharacteristically drilled Davis in the tricep with an up and in fastball.  Davis then moved to second on a passed ball and when Barnhill advanced her to third with a sac bunt, it appeared the Mavs would draw first blood with top hitter Dana Landers coming to the plate.  The Mavs however decided to stick with small ball as Landers laid down a bunt in an attempted squeeze play.  Jury quickly fielded the ball and delivered a backhanded toss to the catcher who applied the tag to the sliding Davis in a bang-bang play at home that went the Patriots way.  Jury then struck out the Mav clean up hitter to end the inning and the early threat without any damage.

            Now it was Mann’s turn to try and take an early lead, and when an errant throw pulled the Mav first baseman off the bag they were in business with the leadoff runner on base.  After a sac bunt and a bloop single to center, the Patriots had runners at the corners with one out.  But it was the Mavs turn to turn a defensive gem as catcher Katelyn Wagers gunned out Jury trying to steal second.  Landers came up the line to apply the tag on Jury all the while keeping an eye on the runner at third preventing her from advancing home.  Storch then stuck out the Mann clean up hitter with a rise ball to end the threat.

            The Lady Mavs again threatened in the 2nd when Madison Tracey’s hard hit grounder found a hole between 1st and 2nd and Nadine Hernandez was hit by another errant pitch from Jury.  But Jury was able to induce an inning ending ground ball to shortstop Kenny Davis to keep the Mavs off the board.

            In the bottom of the second Mann again applied pressure by taking advantage of a rare walk and passed ball from the Mav battery, combined with a single to once again put runners on the corners with one out.   Once again, however, the Mav catcher came up big by racing to the back stop to haul in a pop foul.  Third baseman Brianna Davis then ended the inning with a nice backhanded play on a ground ball.

            The lady Mavs threatened again in the 3rd as Jury continued to struggle with her control.  After retiring the Mavs lead of hitter, Jury plunked Barnhill in the ribs .Then after Landers singled up the middle, Sullivan coaxed a free pass to load the bases.  But once again the Lady Patriots managed to wriggle off the hook when the Mann first baseman fielded a ground ball and threw home to barely nip Barnhill in another bang bang play at the plate.  Jury then induced a harmless ground ball to the second baseman to end another golden opportunity for the Mavs to dent the scoreboard.

            The bottom of the third started off quietly as Amanda Storch retired lead off hitter Leah Young on a fly to right, but then things started to unravel a bit as the Mauldin defense committed back to back errors allowing Mann to score the first run of the game.  It appeared Storch might be able to get out of the inning without further damage as she struck out the Mann clean up hitter for the second time on the night, but with two out second baseman Catheryn Ellenberg hit a single up the middle to extend the lead to two.  Storch again bucked down and struck out the next batter to make sure that was all the Patriots would get in the 3rd.

            In the 4th the lady mavs again got some offense from the bottom of the order as first baseman Madison Tracey led off with a bloop double off the mit of the Mann second baseman.  But 2nd was as far as she would get as the Patriot K’d the next three Maverick hitters.

            Determined to keep the score close until the offense could break through, Storch retired all three patriot hitters in the bottom of the 4th.  But the Patriot pitcher, now buoyed by her two run lead, retired all three hitters for the first time of the night in the Mauldin 5th.  The bottom of the 5th didn’t go as well for Storch and her teammates, as lead off hitter drilled a line drive over the left field fence to increase the lead to 3-0.  Storch then recovered to retire the next three hitters to keep the Mav’s within striking distance. 

            The sixth started off quietly with another K for the Patriot ace, but her counterpart Storch was then able to battle for a base on balls.  That’s when Mauldin coach told Mav first baseman Madison Tracey “If you just step up right here, the rest of us will step in line.”  After a passed ball advance Storch into scoring position, Tracey, encouraged by the confidence her coach had in her, stroked a grounder up the middle for a base hit scoring Storch from second.  Then after a fielders choice that retired Tracey at second, center fielder Jessica Lyles found the grass in short right field to keep the inning alive.  Brianna Davis followed with an RBI single to left field to make it 3-2 and the Mavs weren’t done yet.  Barnhill stroked a line drive to right to load the bases for shortstop Dana Landers.  Attempting to check her swing, Landers hit a two hopper down the first base line that seemingly went right through the Mann first baseman and rolled down the right field line scoring both Lyles and Davis to give the Lady Mavs a 4-3 lead.  Jury retired the next Mav with a strikeout but by then the damage had been done.

            In the bottom of the sixth the lady Mavs were able to preserve their one run lead by working their way around a lead off error thanks in large part to two big Ks from the Mauldin ace.  In the top of the 7th , now playing from behind for the first time on the night, it was Jury’s turn to keep her team close by retiring the middle of the Mauldin lineup in order.

            Three outs away from victory and clinging to a one run lead, the Mauldin defense took the field.  Storch retired the Mann number nine hitter easily on a come backer to the mound to get the always big first out of the inning.  But the second out would prove to be elusive as leadoff hitter Leah Young reached base for the third time on the night with a single to center field.  Storch then induced a soft liner off the bat of the No. 2 hitter Kenny Davis.  Mauldin Shortstop Dana Landers nearly came up with the catch making a great diving attempt to her right, but the ball short hopped into and then out of her mitt when she hit the ground.  Still with a chance to get the runner at second, Landers made a throw from the ground to second baseman Barnhill covering the bag.  The throw was short and in the dirt and Barnhill was unable to come up with the short hop resulting in runners at first and second.  With one out and the tying and winning runs now on base, the Patriot pitcher came to the plate.  Storch attempted to tie her up with a pitch inside, but Jury was able to muscle a soft line drive off the handle into short left field to tie the score and move the winning run to third base with still one out.  But with this see saw game on the line Storch again came up big.  She snared a soft liner off her shoe tops to record the second out leaving the runner at third.  She then induced a two hopper that second baseman Barnhill gobbled up and threw on to first.  When first baseman Tracey reached high to secure the Barnhill throw the game was sent to extra innings.

            Again both pitchers bared down in the eighth and retired the sides in order sending the game into the ninth and triggering the international tie breaker rule.  With Brianna Davis placed at second base,  number two hitter Bria Barnhill came to the plate attempting to move her to third with a sac bunt.  But Barnhill had a better idea, after falling behind in the count 0-2, the bunt sign came off and Barnhill as she had done on her last at bat lined a single to right field advancing Davis to third without sacrificing the out.  The table was set for hard hitting Mauldin short stop Dana Landers and she was hungry.  Landers took a Jury offering and hit a frozen rope over the center fielders head and off the center field fence scoring both Davis from third and fleet footed Barnhill all the way from first.  The Mavs now had a two run lead and with a runner on second and nobody out they weren’t done yet.  Right fielder Deanna Sullivan hit an infield single off the pitchers glove to again put runners on the corners.  Katelyn Wagers then hustled and beat out a play at first when the ball was bobbled by the Mann first baseman to score Landers adding another run to the Mav total.  Mann retired the next three hitters to prevent any further damage but now were trailing by three going to the bottom of the ninth.

            With the three run lead and a victory within their grasp the Mauldin defense rose to the occasion retiring all three hitters in the bottom half of the ninth and though the international runner scored they could do no more damage as Mauldin won this classic contest 7-5.