Highsmith Pitches 13 Innings and Ladies to Top Seed
Saturday, May 3, 2008

FORT WAYNE, Ind.—The Centenary softball team needed just one win in its series with IPFW to sure up the top seed in next week’s Summit League Tournament. It looked like that victory would not come in today’s doubleheader until a late rally and an excellent pitching job by Lauren Highsmith saved the day, leading to a 4-2 win in 13 innings for the Ladies.


Things didn’t start off going Centenary’s (33-24, 16-7 Summit) way as the Ladies fell behind 4-0 in the opening game of the series. A scoreless tie quickly turned to a four-run deficit for the Maroon and White in the third inning when Stacy Whitmer allowed four runs on two singles, an error, and a three-run homerun.


Whitmer exited in favor of Thacker without recording an out after allowing two more singles. Her final line included four runs, three earned, on five hits.


The Ladies were not done though as they posted a rally of their own in the top of the fifth, also sparked by a long ball.


With two outs and Caitlin Cavarra on second base, Bonnie Matak singled her home for Centenary’s first run. Emerald Doria walked and Allison Shepperd teed off for a three-run homer to knot the game at 4-4. The Ladies would then place runners on first and second, but failed to sustain the rally.


Centenary’s new-found momentum would be short-lived when a double, an intentional walk, and another double gave IPFW (16-21, 8-7 Summit) a two-run advantage at 6-4 in the home half of the fifth.


Another Ladies fielding error yielded an unearned run for the Mastodons and Centenary entered its final at bat trailing 7-4.


Relief pitcher Kayla Powell began the inning by walking Matak, Doria, and Shepperd. The Ladies had the bases loaded and no outs as IPFW made a pitching change, bringing back in its starter Amanda Olender.


Olender performed her job to perfection, getting Haley Bassett to fly out, Lauren Flowers to pop up, and Allison McClain to line out to end the game.


The Ladies collected only three hits in the loss and left nine runners on base. IPFW notched 12 hits in the victory.


Game two was an offensive struggle as well for Centenary, who had just two hits and trailed 2-0 heading into the seventh inning. With the possibility of sliding all the way to the third seed if IPFW swept the Ladies, the Maroon and White dug down deep and managed to tie the game at 2-2.


Shepperd singled up the middle to start the comeback and Bassett followed with a walk. Flowers executed the sacrifice bunt to advance both runners and McClain singled home the first run on a base hit to left field.


With one out, Beth Krysiak was called upon to pinch hit and the sophomore came through with a well-placed squeeze bunt to plate the tying run. However, the Ladies would not get a chance to take the lead as the inning ended with McClain being thrown out trying to steal third.


The game moved to extra innings after IPFW did not score in its half of the seventh.


In the eighth, Centenary had runners on first and second with two outs, but could not score. The Ladies were stopped short again in the ninth inning despite having a runner on third with two outs.


The Mastodons also had their chances, but never got the clutch hit when they needed it most. IPFW left a runner stranded at third in the ninth and left the bases loaded in the 11th inning. In that instance, a single, a Centenary error, and an intentional walk loaded the bases with no outs. But Highsmith worked out of the jam by inducing back-to-back groundouts back to the mound, which she fielded and threw home for the force out. She then got a pop up to end the threat.


Centenary started the 13th inning with a single by Jennifer Martin. Cavarra bunted her to second and a single by Matak put runners on the corners. Matak stole second, but a fake bunt by Doria pulled the corner infielders in and the middle of the infield vacated to cover the corner bags. However, the IPFW catcher came up throwing to second and the throw landed in center field with no one at the bag.


Martin scored from third on the errant throw, but so did Matak after the center fielder misplayed the throw to compound the error. Doria singled and stole second, but was left there when Shepperd flied out and Bassett lined out to the pitcher.


Highsmith made the Ladies first lead of the day in 20 innings of softball stick with a scoreless 13th inning to earn the win. The freshman came through with a stellar performance, going 13 innings in relief of Whitmer, who walked the first batter of the game and was then replaced by Highsmith. She improved to 4-5 on the season after giving up just one run while scattering 11 hits. She walked four and struck out five in her second consecutive top-notch outing.  


The Ladies will now serve as the top seed in the tournament, which starts next Friday on the campus of Southern Utah, no matter what happens in Saturday’s Summit League action.


Centenary and IPFW will wrap up their series with a single game on Saturday at 12 p.m.