• Michigan

Walled Lake Northern outscores South Lyon East for split in LVC softball DH, after Cougars rallied for walk-off win in opener

By: Matthew B. Mowery, April 16, 2019, 11:40 pm

SOUTH LYON — After discovering that no lead was safe against a relentless South Lyon East offense in the first game of Tuesday’s key Lakes Valley Conference doubleheader, the Walled Lake Northern squad simply decided to keep pouring it on in the nightcap.

The Knights scored two or more runs in every inning after a scoreless first two, pounding out 11 runs on 17 hits.

And it STILL almost wasn’t enough.

Senior McKenzie Knight struck out two East batters in the bottom of the seventh to strand the bases loaded, the second representing the potential tying run, finally slamming the door shut on an 11-7 win to clinch a split for Northern.

“They (the Cougars) have a lot of great hitters on that team. We have to play better defense. That was a horrible contributing factor to why we had to score 11 runs, and are barely getting out of it,” Northern coach Kristen Woodard said. “The first game, we needed to hit the whole game, and we really only hit a couple of innings. At least we kind of ended (the day) hitting. I was proud of the girls for not letting that first game deflate them, and coming back out and forgetting about it.”

In the opener, the unbeaten Knights (7-1, 1-1 LVC) jumped out to a 5-0 lead after the top of the sixth, only to have the Cougars (5-1, 3-1 LVC) rally with seven runs in their final two at-bats, tying it on Olivia Sabin’s RBI single in the bottom of the seventh, and winning it on Alyssa Hollo’s walk-off home run one batter later.

The Cougars finished in third place in last year’s inaugural go-round in the LVC, behind co-champions Northern and South Lyon. After splitting with the Knights, East hosts their cross-town rival on Thursday, with a chance to make a statement in the league race early on — a big accomplishment, considering how young they are.

“We have one starting senior, and probably four starting sophomores. So, yeah, we’re definitely young. If our pitching holds up, we’re going to score runs every game,” East coach Paul Nieto said. “If we can keep splitting with these really good teams …”

Freshman Delaney Lis got the win in relief for the Cougars in the first game, coming in after Northern had pushed the lead to 5-0 in the sixth, and retiring the five batters she faced. But the Cougars needed junior Melanie Cosens — the starter in the first game — to come in for 3 2/3 innings of relief in the nightcap, after Lis took a liner off the shin.

“I thought Mel … threw two really strong games against a great hitting team. She kept them off-balance. They’re going to score runs just like we’re going to score runs. They hit the ball well,” Nieto said, admitting his offense’s potential is intriguing.

“Yeah, it’s exciting. The top four in our order just pounds the ball, and the bottom part is just flipping the order over. If we can keep doing that, we’re going to be in good shape this year. … This is our third, fourth game in a row, that we’ve really hit the ball.”

It didn’t produce much until the late stages of the opener, though.

Northern took a 2-0 lead early, when the opening inning was prolonged by an error, with Knight making the Cougars pay with a two-run homer, the first of two long balls on the day for the senior. Alex Kamin’s RBI double in the sixth made it 3-0, then Jenna Kroll’s RBI single made it 5-0 after Kamin took home on the first-third steal.

In the bottom of the sixth, Lauren Sciborski made her return to the lineup count with a two-run double, followed by a two-run homer by Laney Czajkowski to make it a 5-4 deficit. Ashley Dameworth was hit by a pitch, and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch, then scored on Sabin’s RBI single. Hollo completed the comeback with a two-run homer on a 1-1 pitch.

Kroll hit a pair of two-run homers — in the third and sixth — for the Knights in the nightcap, while Shaylin Ciaramitaro went 5-for-5 with three runs scored and a pair of RBI, as Northern led 3-0, then 5-1 and 7-4, finally extending the lead to 9-4 with a two-run sixth inning.

After having two runners thrown out at home through four innings, the East offense again began to click late. Dameworth was 4-for-4 for East in the nightcap, hitting a two-run homer in the fourth to chase Northern starter Alissa DiPrima.

“I think typically we’ve had one or two pitchers to work with, and this year, we have four. So I’m learning them, too, right now,” Woodard said, noting Knight’s stabilizing presence in the final innings. “We definitely need Mac’s four-year varsity, senior leadership. That showed on the mound.”

Knight gave up just one run over her first 2 1/3 innings of relief — the lone run on Hollo’s sixth-inning RBI double that cut the deficit to 9-5 — but began to labor a bit in the seventh, as the Cougars worked her for two walks and a hit batter.

East scored on a bases-loaded walk by Dameworth, then a single by Sabin took a wicked hop out of the infield — especially in the last vestiges of sunlight for the day — cutting the Northern lead to four runs, 11-7, and bringing the potential tying run to the plate, with the bases loaded.

“Our league’s going to be tough, so I’m glad that we could scrape by and get that last one,” Woodard said.

The Knights play at Milford on Thursday.