In baseball or softball, one inning can make all the difference in the world.
As the bottom of the fourth inning began, the West Lady Senators looked to have control of the contest.
Behind four hits, a pair of RBI from Terra Butcher, and a one-hitter from Taylor Coleman up to that point, West held a 2-0 advantage as the Lady Senators looked to have an upset on their hands.
However, Minford had other plans.
Back-to-back doubles by Ariel Kingery and Zoe Doll, along with singles from Madison Sifford and Hannah Tolle, allowed the Lady Falcons to storm back and take control for good, and as a result, Minford used its four-run outburst in the fourth inning to take the lead for good as the Lady Falcons took home a 5-2 victory over the Lady Senators in an SOC II bout at Minford on Thursday evening.
For Preston Messer, maintaining an undefeated record — especially against a tough West squad — is an excellent accomplishment.
“It’s a good feeling,” Messer said. “West came in tonight to play, and it was a battle. We got battle-tested right there. Hat’s off to West. They came here to play, and stuck right with us. We just talked to our girls about digging deep and finding something, and they did that.”
As for Dani Coleman, the game was a marked improvement for the Lady Senators, who gave one of the Southeast District’s toughest units a heck of a ride.
“The last game (against Minford) didn’t prove what we could do against them,” Coleman said. “We didn’t come out with a lot of fire or desire. So in this game, we had nothing to lose and everything to gain. We had some key hits today, but we just couldn’t overcome our errors in the field. However, I am pleased, in many ways, with the amount of desire and passion that the girls showed today. We gave them our best shot. Preston is a good coach. I know him from way back when, and he has a really good ballclub, but I’m also really proud of my club. They are a great, competitive squad with a lot of heart.”
In the opening trio of innings, West used that heart to jump out to a 2-0 lead over the first three innings of play.
After Kayleigh Coleman led off the inning with a double and was sacrificed over by Daisy Holsinger, a Makayla White single was followed by a Terra Butcher pop fly to shallow left field.
Even though the ball was hit to the shallow part of the outfield, Kayleigh Coleman took off from third base and sprinted toward home plate. That gamble proved to pay off as the resulting throw glanced off Coleman’s helmet, which allowed the senior to score as West took the early advantage.
In the third inning of play, the top of the lineup came up vital for the Lady Senators again as Kayleigh Coleman drew a walk with one out. Holsinger then followed with a single, and an error allowed Coleman and Holsinger to advance into scoring position. Butcher then brought home Coleman again as the senior capped off the frame with a single to right field to score her classmate and bump the West lead up to a 2-0 margin after three innings of play.
As a whole, Kayleigh Coleman, Holsinger, White, and Butcher — West’s top four batters in the order — combined to go 6-for-10 on the evening with a double, two RBI, and two runs scored to help head up the Lady Senators’ offensive attack.
“Kayleigh did an excellent job at the plate and on the basepaths, Daisy was instrumental in her sacrifices and in her hit to second that helped score a run, and Terra is our big dog who always puts the ball in play and brings home runs for us,” Coleman said. “Haleigh (Throckmorton) also hit the ball well today.”
Additionally, the efforts of Taylor Coleman on the mound were vital in the Lady Senators’ efforts. Coleman allowed only one hit over the first three innings en route to racking up a complete game effort for West.
“I thought that Taylor did a nice job keeping (Minford’s players) on their front foot and working the pitch count with strategy,” Coleman said. “We keep spray charts and stuff where they hit, and she was really strategic with her placement. Makayla (White) did a great job behind the plate, as well.”
After allowing just four hits and two earned runs in a six-inning performance during Minford’s 13-2 victory over West on the first go-around, Madison Sifford had a more difficult outing against the Lady Senators by giving up two earned runs across her two and a third innings of work.
However, the Lady Falcons immediately found results when Ariel Kingery stepped up to pitch in the circle.
Following Butcher’s RBI base knock in her second batter faced, the senior only allowed two additional runners to even get into scoring position over the remainder of the contest as Kingery struck out four batters and only surrendered three hits over the remainder of the affair.
“We pitched (Madison) the first time against West, and they’d never seen her before,” Messer said. “She did a heck of a job. It seemed like they started to get on her there (in the second), so we decided to make a pitching change, and Ariel came in there and did her job.”
So it was only appropriate when Kingery got the rally going for Minford in the fourth frame of action.
Behind the senior’s leadoff double to center, along with another double to left center by Zoe Doll, the Lady Falcons immediately cut into the deficit within the first half-dozen pitches of the inning. Sifford then followed by driving in a single to left to drive in Doll to tie the game and advanced to second on an error, and another single by Tolle — along with a stolen base — allowed both to advance into scoring position.
From there, all the Lady Falcons needed was a 4-3 grounder by Hannah Thacker and a 1-3 sacrifice bunt from Melanie Fuhrmann to take the lead, as Minford changed the complexion of the contest in one fellow swoop.
“We’ve been hitting the ball pretty good this year,” Messer said. “Hopefully, we keep hitting it good. I believe that we’ve been hitting the ball good from one-through-nine. Emily Shoemaker’s a great leadoff hitter, Wolfee (Brittani Wolfenbarker) can hit, slap, or bunt, and then you’ve got the three-headed monsters in Mary Pica, Ariel Kingery, and Zoe Doll right in a row. We’re fortunate on that.”
In the sixth inning, Minford proceeded to clinch the affair as two infield errors allowed Wolfenbarker to advance to third, with Mary Pica driving in the game’s final run via a 4-3 groundout. Kayleigh Coleman tried to get a West rally going with a single to right, but Kingery shut the threat down for good by catching a hard-hit line drive by Holsinger and turning the well-hit shot into a double play with the help of Sifford.
With the victory, Minford improved to 9-0 on the season and 6-0 in the SOC II — a mark that is no small feat as far as Messer is concerned.
In a competitive league like the SOC II, who could blame him?
“Anytime you can be 6-0 (in the SOC II), that’s a good feeling,” Messer said. “9-0 is pretty good too. In our conference, you have to show up every day. That’s especially true when you’re undefeated in your conference, because everybody wants to knock you off. It feels great to be 6-0.”
While West fell to 6-6 overall and 4-3 in the SOC II, the effort marks an improvement for the Lady Senators. However, Coleman isn’t satisfied.
“We take wins and losses very seriously,” Coleman said. “We’re not where we want to be in the SOC II, but we still have South Webster (on Friday), ‘Burg and Waverly coming up next week, as well as Valley. We’re just going to change our focus to the next team and prepare for them in the best way that we possibly can.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7