Buck gives up no runs in final three and a half innings
Things weren't going too badly for Missoula Sentinel starting pitcher Stefani Hertz. She had given up just four hits and struck out two in four innings.
But with a couple of defensive errors behind her and Missoula Hellgate looking poised to add to its 6-1 lead in the fourth inning, Sentinel coach Brian Bessette opted to pull the freshman in favor of junior Maren Buck.
The move healed all of the Spartans' ails. Sentinel did an about-face in the final three and a half innings and rallied for an 8-6 victory Tuesday at McCormick Park in Western AA softball action.
Sentinel improved to 5-1 in league and 7-2 overall. Hellgate, losers of three straight, fell to 4-4, 4-4.
"It's just one of those things," Bessette said. "They just started to hit it hard. I wanted to get a little change of pace in there."
Buck (2-0) came in and silenced the Knights' offense, giving up no runs, no hits and striking out five in just 3 2/3 innings of work.
After mustering only a single and one run in the first four innings, the Spartans' hitters finally solved Hellgate starter Erica DeMers (2-2). The freshman was tagged for seven runs and six hits in the fifth and sixth innings.
The comeback started when Sentinel loaded the bases - all coming on walks - with one out in the fifth. Cleanup hitter Jenn Feeley did her job, driving in Leah Madden and Brandi Hills and moving Whitney Eriksson to third with a double that skimmed over third base. Eriksson scored the third and final run of the inning on a sacrifice fly to left field by Jacque Chatriand as the Spartans pulled within 6-4.
In the sixth, the Spartans rallied with two outs, nailing five consecutive singles.
On the third hit by Hills, Hellgate's center fielder bobbled the ball, allowing two runs to cross the plate as the Spartans knotted the game at 6-6. Hills advanced to third on the error and scored the go-ahead run when a pitch got by Hellgate catcher Ellen Buchman.
The scoring barrage continued with a single by Eriksson. She advanced to second on another wild pitch and scored on Feeley's single to cap a five-hit, four-run sixth by Sentinel. The inning finally ended when Chatriand struck out, but the Spartans held an 8-6 advantage.
"Hellgate had the momentum the first half of the game and they stopped," Bessette said. "We brought Maren in and she just kept them off balance. … It seemed like the whole momentum shifted. Once we stopped them, then we started hitting the ball."
Added Hellgate coach Eric Hays: "You have to concentrate and play all the way through it. … (Buck) did a good job of throwing to the spots and we got frustrated at the plate. But you have to give Sentinel credit. They didn't give up."
It looked early like the Knights would cruise. They mixed a couple of singles with two Spartan errors to take a 4-1 lead after the first inning. Hellgate added two more in the fourth before Buck entered with one out and a runner at second base and stopped the Knights in their tracks.
Feeley did the most damage for the Spartans, bringing in four runs on two hits. Buck was the only other player from either team with at least two hits. She finished 2-for-3. Four players did all the scoring for Sentinel. Buck, Hills, Eriksson and Madden each scored twice.
Hellgate's four hits went to Mandy Hays, Karin Gorseth, Courtney Callaghan and Casey Chumrau, all coming on singles. Hays, Gorseth, Buchman, Callaghan, DeMers and Cardarelli each scored for the Knights.
Stefani Hertz, Maren Buck (4) and Nikki Pummill. Erica DeMers, Molly Hays (7) and Ellen Buchman. W - Buck (2-0). L - DeMers (2-2).
SENTINEL - Buck 2-3, Brandi Hills 1-3, Whitney Eriksson 1-2, Jenn Feeley 2-4, Jacque Chatriand 0-2, Pummill 0-4, Josi Carlson 0-4, Hertz 0-4, Leah Madden 1-2.
HELLGATE - Mandy Hays 1-4, Karin Gorseth 1-4, Hays 0-3, Buchman 0-1, Courtney Callaghan 1-3, DeMers 0-3, Casey Chamrau 1-4, Charis Carderelli 0-2, Tiffany Davidson 0-3.
2B - Feeley. RBIs - Feeley 4, Hills, Chatriand, Chumrau 2, Hays, Gorseth.