Playing for a share of the Southern Foothills 1A softball crown was all the North Lincoln Knights could ask for.
The Lady Knights beat Cherryville 8-3 last week to hand them their first loss. They then got some help as the Ironmen lost another SF 1A game, giving North Lincoln the opportunity, with a win, to earn a share of the conference title.
North Lincoln held a 2-1 lead into the fifth inning before losing 3-2 to Maiden in eight innings.
The momentum the Lady Knights had built was thwarted by one key play in the top of the fifth.
Maidenâ€™s Leslie Herman started the inning off with a walk. Junior Nicole Baxter recorded a strikeout and made Amber Hefner ground out.
With two outs, Randi Pruitt hit a line drive to sophomore second baseman Courtney Feldon.
Feldon appeared to have gotten her glove under the ball for what wouldâ€™ve been a third out. After the â€˜catch,â€™ she tossed the ball back into the pitcherâ€™s circle.
Seeing no call made, Pruitt kept running. North Lincoln was halfway in the dugout before they realized the play was still alive. It was too late as a throw to home wasnâ€™t in time, allowing the hustling Pruitt to tie the game at two.
In the top of the eighth, Lindsey Canipe, who went 2-for-3 in the game, singled with one out. The next batter, Anna Snider, laid down a sacrifice bunt, allowing Canipe to reach second.
Although the Knights recorded their second out of the inning, an infield error allowed Canipe to score the winning run.
â€œWe played well last night at Polk County, then come out here and play sloppy,â€ North Lincoln head coach Rick Brown said. â€œShe (Kelsey Leonard) had only one strikeout, but yet we didnâ€™t hit the ball well enough to score but two runs.â€
With North Lincoln making several mental mistakes, that cost them runs, Brown believes his team better get it together or vacation will be here sooner than they want.
â€œIf they donâ€™t get it together starting next week, itâ€™s going to be a lot shorter season than what they planned on. They got to reach down and figure whatâ€™s going on with them,â€ he said.
Baxter, who had seven strikeouts and six walks, felt she had let her team down and couldnâ€™t offer any explanation for the teamâ€™s flat play.
â€œI donâ€™t know what happened. I didnâ€™t do very well,â€ she said. â€œWe just werenâ€™t there today. We werenâ€™t as pumped up as we were at Polk County.â€
Pruitt went 1-for-4 with one RBI for the Blue Devils. Courtney Berry went 1-for-3 with one RBI. Leonard and Herman also went 1-for-3.
Donia McDonald went 1-for-3, but had both RBIs for the Lady Knights. Her second RBI came in the bottom of the fourth when she hit a deep blast into right field. Courtesy runner Amanda Snyder scored on the play.
Baxter snapped out of a slump going 2-for-3. Jenna Torbert was 2-for-4.
Senior Lindsey Smith went 1-for-3, but was robbed twice. Centerfielder Herman robbed her of a possible double in the fourth.
â€œIâ€™m really disappointed. Maybe during the conference tournament, weâ€™ll come back and beat them when it really matters and that will help us at states,â€ she said.
Smith joined Calah Bynum and Nicole Hall as North Lincolnâ€™s three seniors. The loss was made more difficult as it was Senior Night.
â€œAt the beginning of the season, we had a chance to be conference champs and we blew that the first round. We came through the second round playing much better until tonight,â€ Brown said.
â€œWe had it, then we werenâ€™t pumped enough I guess. I thought we were going to win, but thatâ€™s the way it goes,â€ Knightsâ€™ junior McKenzie Harkey said.
In the top of the fourth, Smith made an over-the-shoulder basket catch.
For Maiden, left fielder Rachel Starnes demonstrated excellent range, tracking down several hard-hit balls.
The Lady Blue Devils could clinch the regular season conference championship if Cherryville loses their final game. If Cherryville wins, they would share it.
Maiden 010 010 0 1â€”3 7 0
North Lincoln 010 100 0â€”2 8 2
by John Mark Brooks