Things were tied 3-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning Tuesday night when Mexico varsity softball pitcher Patytience Lawson-Holman began the stanza by hitting Centralia's Mary Kate Bennett and allowing a bunt single to Anna Romine to put runner on first and second base with no outs.
That scenario changed rather quickly when the Lady Panther Olivia Hombs hit a soft line drive back to the pitcher that became a double play when the runner on first got caught slipping on a quick throw. But, when the Lady Bulldogs Lawson-Holman also hit the next batter, Carter Hawkins, Centralia once again had runners on first and second, and after Scarlett Fox's infield single, the bases were loaded with two outs and Lynise Curtis stepping up to the plate.
No stranger to big moments, Curtis competed at the state track and field meet last spring and then spent the summer continuing to participate in similar events. As for this moment, it also proved within her grasp as she connected for a simple single to left to give her team the 4-3 victory.
"Mary Kate Bennett scoring the winning run was big. Gwendolyn Bostick's homerun to tie the game (in the bottom of the sixth inning) was a huge moment," said Centralia coach Kendra Murphy. "The double play (in the top of the seventh), those were the top three. Those plays definitely helped spark momentum on offense. With Mary Kate leading off the final inning, we just wanted her to have a good at-bat. She had made good contact in her other two at-bats. We just wanted her to do what she does."
One of the factors working in the Lady Panthers favor in this contest was that in her role as starting pitcher Bostick was able to throw 14-first pitch strikes. She also struck out six on her way to earning this complete-game victory.
"When (Romine) came to the plate in the seventh, that's her game, to put it in play and run. That wasn't the bunt we were looking for, but it worked," Murphy said. "Of the three home games we've had so far, we've lost two, but all three of them have been, there's lots and lots of energy when we play at home. They players feed off the people in the stands. They bring it from the dugout. They want to put on a show for the crowd. The biggest challenge is going to be taking that same enthusiasm on the road."
With the Lady Panthers also having driven in runs in the bottom of the fourth and the first, Mexico's offensive awakening came in the top of the fourth starting with a double to centerfield by Reghan Smith to lead off the inning followed by a walk to Aaryn Sampo. When Lawson-Holman then chose to laser a double to right field, that gave the Lady Bulldogs their first lead of the contest at 2-1. One out later and Logan Blevins clocked a double to left that extended that advantage to 3-1.
"All in all (Lawson-Holman) threw the kind of game she usually throws. To hit a couple batters like she did at the end is unlike her completely, so that part of it is a little out of character, but I give Centralia a lot of credit," siad Mexico coach Keith Louder. "They put the ball in play at critical times. If we went back and look at the book I think we'd find there was a lot of two-strike contact. They were a little too solid for two strikes, so we're going to have to improve on that side of it."
The Lady Bulldogs did try and make some late game, two out rallies inclduing in the fifth when Smith singled after groundouts by Taylor Sherrow and Abby Oetting, but a ground out to the pitcher by Sampo put that dream to rest just as quickly as it began. In the sixth Blevins found herself in a similar position for Mexico after Holman and Hayley Mills struck out, but once again Centralia's Bostick killed those hopes by forcing a ground ball back to herself for out number three.
"I think Centralia's initial three runs got started because Bostick got some kind of hit. That was big, but there were a lot of kids who came up with some clutch, critical contact," Louder said. "They made plays. (In our half of the seventh) Abby (Oetting) squared one up. It just happened to be right at somebody. Then we get doubled up, and that's a pretty big deal in that situation. In the bottom of the seventh there were two hit batsmen that put runners on. That created a pressure situation."
Centralia, 2-3 overall, is at Brookfield on Thursday for a Clarence Cannon Conference contest.
Mexico, 5-2 overall, was at Boonville on Wednesday and will be at Fulton on Thursday.