LILBURN — The old baseball adage “Hit ‘em where they ain’t,” took on particular significance in Parkview’s Region 7-AAAAAAA softball clash with neighborhood rival Brookwood.
The visiting Broncos forced extra innings on an RBI single by Anna Dover that tipped just off the glove of a diving Grace Hrustich between third base and shortstop in the top of the seventh.
But two innings later, the Panthers returned the favor when Addie Stewman extended the frame with similar two-out hit just out of the reach of a Brookwood infielder, then stole second before Hrustich singled her home to lift the hosts to a 2-1 walk-off win Tuesday night at Parkview.
The hits just in the right places by Dover and Stewman illustrated just how hard hits were to come by throughout the evening, as Parkview pitcher Maya Watson and Brookwood’s Danielle Taitt only gave up 10 hits combined throughout the nine innings, with six of those hits coming from the sixth inning on.
But the Panthers (10-5, 4-1) got just enough hits at the right time to break a three-way tie for first in the region by taking a half-game lead on idle Norcross and a full game over the Broncos (7-8, 3-2).
“It’s aways a good game when we play Brookwood,” Parkview coach Jessica Sinclair said. “They brought their best. We brought out best. It was great that Grace was able to get a second chance. She plays super hard at third base, and I had a lot of faith in her coming to bat in the ninth.
“Maya kept us in that game. To pitch a nine-inning game in (high school) softball is unusual, so for her to still have her best stuff through the last couple of outs, I couldn’t be more proud of her.”
Watson was very much in control after escaping some early trouble by stranding two Brookwood runners in the top of the second and then pitching around Olivia Rogawzinksi’s one-out double in the third.
From that point on, 13 of the next 14 Bronco hitters, including the last 11 in a row following an error in the fourth, through recording the first two outs in the top of the seventh. She wound up allowing just four hits and the one run with two strikeouts and 16 groundball outs in the complete-game effort.
Meanwhile, Parkview managed just two hits off Taitt (3-6) through the first five innings.
However, Lauren Brister followed Megan Gibbs’ leadoff walk in the sixth by beating Rogawzinksi’s throw to first after the third baseman dove to her left to snag a grounder in the hole, and both runners advanced on Lauren Buchanan’s sacrifice bunt to put runners in scoring position with only one out in the bottom of the sixth.
Ashleigh Lawson then followed by singling up the middle to help the Panthers finally break through and take a 1-0 lead.
But Taitt, who scattered six hits and two earned runs and struck out seven through 8 2/3 innings, kept the deficit at just one run to give the Broncos a chance, one they seized on after Kayla Widy drew a two-out walk to break up Watson’s string of 11 straight batters retired in the top of the seventh.
With her team still down to its last out, Dover sent a grounder into the hole between short and third that Hrustich dove to her left for and got a glove on.
However, all that effort went for naught as the ball deflected off her glove and behind a charging Lawson at short, allowing Widy to scamper home to tie the game at 1-1 and force extra innings.
“That’s on me because I didn’t make the (play on the) dive,” Hrustich said.
After a scoreless frame in the eighth, Watson stranded Olivia Jaime, who had hit a one-out double at third base representing the potential go-ahead run in the top of the ninth to give Parkview another chance in the bottom half.
When with two outs and nobody on, Stewman hit a similar grounder in the hole between third and short that Rogawzinski dove to her left for and briefly had in her glove, only to have it trickle away far enough for an infield single.
Stewman then stole second to bring Hrustich to the plate looking for a particular pitch to try and make up for the play she felt she failed to make two innings earlier, and looking for a particular pitch to do it on.
“I was definitely looking for something away,” said the recent Delaware commit, who finished the night 2-for-5. “All (Taitt has) pitched to me was outside (pitches), and I’d hit line drives to right (the previous two at bats). I was just trying to get it through (to the outfield).”
Hrustich got the pitch, the result and the redemption she was looking for by lining a single to right, with Stewman sprinting home to beat a good through from Grace Young to the plate to give the Panthers the walk-off win, and hand the Broncos their sixth loss of one or two runs on the season.
“It’s always a good game when we play Parkview, and I wouldn’t expect anything less,” Brookwood coach Jennifer Maloney said. “We had some missed opportunities. … It was one of those games where it comes down to whoever blinks first.”