“This is what you guys are here for,” Cooper told the girls strapping on their batting helmets. “Dani (Smith), you’re number two. Get on. Then Brette (Lawrence), you move her over. Then the number four and five hitters get her in.”
The No. 3 seeded Cougars fulfilled Cooper’s prophecy and then some, scoring four runs in the bottom of the sixth en route to a 4-0 victory over sixth-seeded Galena on Thursday afternoon in the first round of the Northern 4A Region Softball Tournament.
Leading off the inning, Smith reached first base safely after being hit by a pitch. Lawrence then stepped to the dish and laid down a sacrifice bunt to move sophomore Alyx Penrod, pinch running for Smith, to second. A single by the Cougs’ No. 4 hitter, Sidney Sinclair, then put runners on the corners before Karlie Merritt entered the game as a pinch runner for Sinclair and stole second. That put a pair of Cougars in scoring position. Presented with the perfect opportunity to deliver the game’s first run, sophomore Myrissa Prince did not disappoint.
On an 0-2 count, Prince hit a hard grounder to a charging Grizzlies’ shortstop who bobbled the ball on the scoop, allowing Penrod to slide in and score for a 1-0 Spanish Springs edge while Prince made it to first safely. After a Prince steal, freshman Ally Batastini roped a laser into the left-center field gap for a two-run double, giving the Cougars a 3-0 advantage. A line drive off the bat of junior Kelsie Stroshine followed and bounced off the glove of the Galena shortstop and into left field, allowing Batastini to touch home for the 4-0 Spanish Springs lead.
“It was a tough play,” Spanish Springs coach Jeff Davidson said about Prince’s grounder. “It was hit a little bit to the shortstop’s right and she was running in on it aggressively and the ball kind of just went off the heel of her glove. It would have been a tough play even if she came up with it cleanly. That just kind of helped us out and we took advantage of that and scored a couple more runs.
“We were tough out there. We talked about it before. You take advantage of your opportunities in certain situations. It doesn’t matter what you do during the game. There’s going to be a point and time where you can make an impact and when you have that opportunity you have to come through, and they did.”
After putting the four-spot on the scoreboard in the sixth frame, Lawrence, Spanish Springs’ junior ace, returned to the circle to finish out the game for the Cougars. Having allowed just two Galena runners into scoring position up to that point, Lawrence remained dominant in the seventh and closed the door on the Grizzlies to secure the win for SSHS.
“She did a great job,” Davidson said of the Cougs’ hurler. “She hit her spots, moved the ball. She’s done it all for us this year, not only on the mound but offensively as well. Even though she’s our leading hitter, we had to bunt and move the runner over in the sixth and she accepted that role and she got the job done. That’s just what she does. Whatever it takes, she’s willing to do.”
Before the four-run inning for the Cougars, the two defenses posted zeroes on the scoreboard throughout the contest.
Neither side allowed a runner to reach base until Spanish Springs’ Bayley Broadwater reached first when a grounder bounced off the glove of Galena’s third baseman in the bottom of the third inning. Galena got a runner on base in the fourth when junior Sofia Baig singled to center field, but she ended up stranded on second. Sinclair singled in the bottom half of the fourth with two outs but the Grizzlies got out of the inning unscathed.
The Grizzlies best scoring chance came in the top of the fifth frame with the aid of a Spanish Springs error.
Senior McKenzie Wasley led off the inning with a bloop single into right field. After a strikeout, Ashley Henderson hit a groundball to first base, but the throw from Sadye Roulund to cut down the runner advancing to second went just a bit too far to the right, pulling Broadwater off the bag and leaving both runners safe. Lawrence worked out of the jam with two ensuing strikeouts.
Spanish Springs threatened in the bottom of the fifth inning but did not manage to produce a run. After the Grizzlies retired the first two batters of the frame, sophomore Kayla Arterburn took first on a hit-by-pitch then went to second on a single from Broadwater. With a runner in scoring position, Bella Rovens hit a hard ground up the middle that ricocheted off the glove of a diving second baseman and right to the Galena shortstop who was standing on second base for the third out of the inning.
Lawrence pitched all seven innings in the shutout with four hits allowed and five strikeouts. Sophomore Caitln Laycox took the circle for Galena in the losing effort, giving up six hits and four runs, three earned.
Having escaped with the victory in the pitchers’ duel, Davidson expects more of the same moving forward in the playoffs.
“That’s what you expect in regionals,” Davidson said. “If you watched the early games, they were both 3-0. Everyone steps up and plays hard during regionals. That’s what you have to anticipate and you’re just looking for that one key break or hit that gets you a run and gets things started. Both teams had opportunities during the game. There wasn’t many, but we both had opportunities and we just happened to have a couple nice swings there and drove in some runs.”
Spanish Springs (24-8) will now play second-seeded Bishop Manogue, a 13-8 winner over Douglas, today at 1 p.m. The pair split their regular season series. Davidson said his team will need to play another clean game in order to have a shot at remaining in the winner’s bracket.
“We can’t make mistakes. We have to be aggressive and hit the ball. We just need to be aggressive on the bases and at the plate, and if we do that then it’s going to be a good game.”