MAYFIELD - An early season Western Athletic Conference softball showdown lived up to its billing.
Mayfield and Fort Plain, the top two teams in the WAC North standings, squared off Tuesday afternoon at Mayfield High School.
The host Lady Panthers jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead that Fort Plain chipped away at to tie the game in the late innings.
Mayfield’s Jen Little dives back to the base as Fort Plain’s first baseman Hayley Kilmartin applies the tag on a throw down during Tuesday’s Western Athletic Conference game at Mayfield High School. Looking on is Fort Plain second baseman Allehah VanLoan. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
However, the Lady Panthers rallied back to retake the lead and hold off the Lady Hilltoppers to claim the hard-fought 10-7 victory.
"Wow," was Mayfield coach Jamie Hurd's reaction after the game. "We knew coming into this game that this was the game. Not that any other game isn't important, but that this game was going to be even more important for us because we're tied for the lead in the north. They always seem to come through. I am so very proud of them."
Both teams put the ball in play, delivering a combined 20 hits against two of the league's top pitchers, Fort Plain's Jamie Fredericks and Mayfield's Anna Husain, who combined for three walks and six strikeouts. Errors also became a factor as each team had three.
"It is the same things we did against Duanesburg; we beat ourselves with errors," Fort Plain coach Crystallee Quell said. "Jamie [Fredericks] pitched a heck of a game . . . she is not going to pitch any better than that. They know it too, the errors killed them."
Hurd echoed Coach Quell, saying, "We had our bad innings and they had theirs. We happened to be up when we had ours. I don't need to yell and scream at [the team]. They know what they did and I don't need to repeat myself. They just bring it back the next inning. We let it go and it is what it is."
An error led to the Lady Panthers' first run of the game.
Husain hit a hard shot up the middle that was misplayed by Fredericks, allowing Husain to reach base. Lisa Hime and Mackenzie Biggers followed with singles. All three came around to score, giving Mayfield an early 3-0 lead.
Husain set the Lady Hilltoppers down in order for the second straight inning, allowing the Lady Panthers to keep their momentum at the plate going.
Jen Little opened the bottom of the second with a single and scored on Husain's RBI double. Biggers plated Husain with her double for a 5-0 advantage.
The Lady Hilltoppers went to work to dig their way out of the early hole.
Kendra Trembley connected for a one-out single and scored on Sierra Logan's triple down the left-field line. The rally stalled briefly when Hime, Mayfield's shortstop, snowconed a linedrive off the bat of Allehah VanLoan that was headed for the gap in left center to end the inning.
A pair of fielding errors led to a big inning for Fort Plain in the top of the fifth.
Jenna Barhydt led off the inning with a single, stole second and advanced to third on Brianna Florian's groundout. Trembley joined her on base with a walk and stole second second to put runners in scoring position with one out.
Husain struck out Logan for the second out and got Fredericks to pop the ball up on the infield. However, miscommunication between players forced an error on Messina allowing Barhydt and Trembley to score. VanLoan followed with a single that scored Fredericks, cutting the lead to 5-4.
The Lady Hilltoppers stayed alive in the inning when Messina's second error of the inning allowed Haley Kilmartin to reach base before the Lady Panthers got the final out.
Fort Plain kept its momentum going as Fredericks set the Lady Panthers down on seven pitches resulting in a strikeout and two groundouts.
The Hilltoppers tied the game in the top of the sixth, when Florian legged out an infield single with two outs and came around to score on the Lady Panthers third error in two innings to tie the game at five.
The Lady Panthers caught the break they were looking for when Fort Plain third baseman Erin Davis fielded Kiera Davis' grounder to third, but her throw hit the dirt, allowing Davis to reach on the error.
Husain followed with an RBI double to left field to score Davis. Hime, Biggers and Messina came through with consecutive base hits to put the Lady Panthers up 9-5 before Messina scored on a throwing error as she stole third to put the score at 10-5.
The Lady Hilltoppers were not ready to concede the game.
Fredericks and VanLoan opened the top of the seventh with back-to-back singles and Kilmartin worked her way on with a walk to load the bases with no outs.
Boyer drove in Fredericks with her hard hit that was knocked down by Nicole Little, but she was unable to make a play, keeping the bases loaded.
Nellis hit a grounder to third that Nicole Little handled and fired to Jen Little to get VanLoan at the plate for the first out of the inning.
Barhydt followed with a deep fly ball to center field that Biggers settled under for the second out, but Kilmartin tagged up and scored on the play to bring the score to 10-7.
Husain came up with the final out of the game, a grounder back to the mound, that she handled and tossed to Lindsey Barber for the final out.
"We have weird moments with our team, but we keep going," Barber said. "We play like it is 0-0 all the time. That was a great catch [Mackenzie Biggers'] and we needed it. I felt like [the win] was coming then. That girl got home but we were ready to go and ready to fight. I am just really excited that we won."
Fort Plain was led at the plate by VanLoan, who had two singles and an RBI, while Logan had a triple and Trembley, Florian, Barhydt, Boyer and Fredericks all singled.
"We needed a pickup and Sierra Logan, an eighth-grader we brought up at the beginning of the season, gave it to us," Quell said. "These girls get down on themselves real quick and they come alive when somebody does something. They stepped it up we came back from 5-0. We took it a little at a time. We definitely are not a big hitting team this year and are not going to go out there a blow anybody out with our bats. They knew that all along. But they were facing one of the best pitcher in the league and we play these guys two more times. We play them next week and then again in the WAC Cup. I wish we could walk away and say they beat us but we definitely beat ourselves today."
Biggers finished with a double, two singles and two runs scored, while Husain had two doubles and three runs scored for Mayfield. Hime, Messina and Barber all had two singles apiece, while Jen Little had a single.
"[Getting the early runs] were very important," Hurd said. "We have been down in almost every game and have had to come back. I told them at the end when we play Fort Plain again, they are going to come out strong and they want to beat us. It is very important that we come out and hit the ball right away and not wait for the sixth inning."
Mayfield (7-1, 6-1 WAC) returns to the diamond today for a league game at Canajoharie, while Fort Plain (7-3 overall, 5-2 WAC) hosts St. Johnsville in a league game.
Mayfield 10, Fort Plain 7
Fort Plain001 031 2 - 7 8 3
Mayfield320 005 x - 10 12 3
Fredericks and Trembley; Husain and J. Little.