With their state playoff hopes seemingly unconscious the West Lincoln Lady Rebels 4-3 victory over county rival North Lincoln in 10 innings resuscitated their hopes and now appear to be a sure lock to make the playoffs.
Already with a two-run homer earlier in the game junior Kendall Barrett delivered the game-winning RBI, lifting the Rebels (12-10, 10-4) to a third-place finish in the Southern Piedmont.
â€œHer homerun really got us pumped up. She got up to bat with confidence and delivered the game-winning hit then remained humble after the game,â€ West Lincoln head coach Mia Cooke said of Barrett.
Down 3-0 after a RBI-single by Elle Tallent, North Lincolnâ€™s sister duo of Jenna Torbert and Emily Torbert brought the Knights back.
Jennaâ€™s RBI-double followed by younger sister Emilyâ€™s two-RBI double tied up the gameâ€¦ where it would remain until the bottom of the 10th.
The game saw a stellar pitching duel between seniors Sheana Black and Nicole Baxter.
Black, in relief, threw the last seven innings, allowing just three hits and no runs for the Lady Rebels, leaving her coach impressed in the process.
â€œShe kept her composure even when she got behind in the count. She was a big factor in helping us win the game,â€ Cooke said. â€œTheyâ€™ve played well all year . They showed great leadership and were a pivotal reason for our success this season,â€ Cooke added of fellow seniors Nicole Davis, Katie Davis, Anna Knight and Candi Taylor.
Baxter threw a complete game and limited West to just three hits over the final eight innings. On the night, Baxter struck out nine and walked only one in suffering the hard-luck loss.
Pitching wasnâ€™t the only area that stood out. The second base defensive play on both sides was exceptional.
Whitney Sain robbed the Lady Knights of several hits, while Amanda Leonard made a game-high 11 putouts and seemed to be everywhere.
â€œAmanda was the one highlight for both teams defensively. She made plays diving, off her knees and showed a lot of range,â€ North Lincoln head coach Rick Brown said.
Leading the Rebels at the plate was Black, who went 3-for-5. Tallent had two hits and a RBI and Taylor singled.
Jenna Torbert paced the Lady Knights with a 4-for-5 performance. Courtney Feldon and Samantha Harris each singled.
â€œIt was a big winâ€¦ a huge win. It was awesome,â€ Cooke said.
Brown, who guided the Knights to their first conference championship in school history this season, tipped his hat to West after the hard-fought game.
â€œThey played a near perfect game. They played as close to flawless as you can play and they got the this when they needed them to score runs,â€ he said. â€œWe probably didnâ€™t hit a whole lot better last time than we did this time, but they made a lot of mistakes then and this time they made basically none,â€ he added.
For the Rebels, unless East Lincoln wings the conference tournament to be held next week, theyâ€™ll make the state playoffs for the first time since 1997. In the 1990â€™s under Allan Hoyle, they made the postseason six times.
Meanwhile in Pumpkin Center, Brown hopes the loss serves as extra motivation to repeat as conference tournament champs.
â€œIâ€™m hoping it will get the girls motivated and fired up. We reached our first goal of the season. Our second goal is to win the conference tournament,â€ he said.
by John Mark Brooks