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With one swing of the bat, Fike High senior LeAnn Pittman dealt the host Hunt varsity girls softball team a classic case of Senior Night heartbreak in the 3-A Big East Conference clash for second place Thursday night.
With the score knotted at 4-4 and two outs in the top of the eighth inning, Pittman smashed a two-run home run over the left-field fence to propel the Lady Golden Demons to a 7-4 extra-inning thriller.
Pittman, the winning pitcher, delivered after giving up a two-run triple to Hunt catcher Faith Matthews that produced a 4-4 tie with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning.
With two chances to get Matthews home and celebrate a walk-off victory, the Lady Warriors were unsuccessful, resulting in the extra inning.
The outcome enabled Fike to clinch no worse than a tie for second place at 6-2 and improve to 10-6 overall. Outscored 39-9 in conference losses to Southern Nash and Franklinton earlier in the week, Hunt slid to 5-4 in the Big East and 9-9 against all foes.
Pittman connected for her fifth 2019 home run after sophomore shortstop Lindsey Curlings led off with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. An infield pop fly resulted in the second out.
“I was just trying to get a base hit to get Lindsey home,” Pittman commented. “I knew it was a big run. I knew when I saw it, the pitch looked good.”
“I knew she was going to have a big hit,” Fike head coach Josh Jenkins noted of Pittman’s at-bat. “She has been seeing the ball good. I had a good feeling she was going to drive in the run. A home run always helps.”
The Lady Demons added insurance in the inning against losing pitcher Madison Mercer, a freshman right-hander who relieved starting senior right-hander Brittany Glover in the fourth inning.
Freshman first baseman Jada Lamm drew a walk and raced home on sophomore catcher Ashley Pendergrass’ double.
Did the Lady Warriors consider walking Pittman intentionally?
“Afterwards,” assistant coach Craig Mercer admitted.
Added Hunt head coach Miguel Hall: “We talked about it earlier in the game. (Pittman) is a great hitter.”
Pittman batted 2 for 2 with three RBIs for Fike. Pendergrass wound up 2 for 5, while senior left fielder Taylor Little and junior right fielder E.J. Secrest each rapped two hits.
Hunt wound up with eight hits against Pittman (6-4). Matthews and left fielder Mckenzie House each drilled three hits in four at-bats.
Through the first three innings, pitchers Pittman and Glover offered their best Houdini imitations in escaping jams. Both were aided by defensive gems from Fike freshman center fielder Lydia Hunt and Little, and Hunt’s junior shortstop Brianna Tucker and sophomore left fielder House. Fike outfielders twice robbed Tucker on deep blasts.
“I was very proud of the defense,” Pittman said. “We have struggled some, but we stayed solid tonight.”
Players from both teams acknowledged focusing on the game the first day of spring break was a challenge.
“We were all ready for spring break,” Pittman agreed. “But we knew we had to take care of business before it started officially.”
Fike scored the first run in the fourth on singles by Little and Secrest and Curlings’ sacrifice fly. Little and Secrest each singled when the Lady Demons plated two unearned runs in the fifth. Three walks and Pittman’s RBI fielder’s choice staked Fike to a 4-0 lead in the sixth.
Pittman blanked the Lady Warriors on two hits through five innings.
But Faith Matthews, senior third baseman Allyson Matthews and House each singled in the sixth. A passed ball produced the second run.
In the seventh, Glover walked and Mercer beat out a bunt to set the stage for sophomore Faith Matthews’ game-tying, two-run triple. But a foul pop to first base and a strikeout left Faith Matthews at third. Before striking out, junior first baseman Destiny Norris hammered two long drives just foul along the left-field line.
“We had our chances,” Hall lamented. “We tied the game, had a runner at third base, had momentum and two of our best hitters coming up. I thought (Faith Matthews’ hit) was a home run, but it didn’t carry. I thought we were on our way.
“I’m super proud of the effort. We played hard and did an awesome job. Fike’s outfield played pretty good.”
Fike’s Jenkins emphasized keeping Hunt’s speedy lead-off hitter Tucker off base “helped us out defensively.”
Pittman pointed out the Lady Demons spoiled Hunt’s Senior Night for the second time in her career.
“Amazing!” Glover described Faith Matthews’ triple. We had a lot of good hits at the end. We did good; we had a few errors but not a lot.”
But seniors Glover, Allyson Matthews, Sarah Bunn and Hannah Williams (concussion) were denied by the archrival on their night.
“(The comeback) felt really good,” Glover remarked. “Then, it was taken away. It sucks.”
Score by innings:
Fike 000 121 03 — 7
Hunt 000 002 20 — 4
WP-LeAnn Pittman (6-4) 8 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 6 SO. LP-Madison Mercer (1-1) 4 2/3 IP, 5 H, 6 R, 4 ER,4 BB, 0 SO.
LEADING HITTERS — Fike: Lindsey Curlings 3-3, 2 R, RBI; LeAnn Pittman 2-2, HR, 3 RBI, 2 R; Ashley Pendergrass 2-4, 2B, RBI; Taylor Little 2-5, RBI; E.J. Secvest 2-4; Hunt: Faith Matthews 3-4, 3B, 2 RBI; Mckenzie House 3-4.