BURLINGTON — It was an all-new experience for the 13th-ranked Mt. Pleasant softball team on Friday. The Panthers took on Burlington indoors at the Burlington Rec Plex, splitting games in their last nonconference doubleheader against the Grayhounds before they move to the Southeast Conference.
The first game was a tough one defensively for Mt. Pleasant. The Panthers struggled with the dome effect, and gave up five unearned runs in an 8-5 loss. In game two, Mt. Pleasant stormed back in the final inning to win 5-4.
While the Mt. Pleasant defense wasn’t stellar in game one, they did make some stellar plays. After a scoreless top of the first for Mt. Pleasant, center fielder Trinity Krabill made the best play of the game in the bottom of the first inning.
With one out and a runner on second, a Burlington slugger cranked one to deep center field. With the ball about to sail over the fence for a two-run homer, Krabill rereated on the ball, robbed the homerun, stayed in the field of play and then threw the ball back in to the infield to complete a double play.
“That was pretty cool,” head coach Troy Mears said after the game. “That was good concentration to go get the ball and stay with the ball.”
Burlington scored the first two runs on an error in the bottom of the second. The Grayhounds held that lead until the top of the fourth when Mt. Pleasant’s bats finally broke out.
Lyndi Vantiger led off the top of the fourth with an RBI single, and the next two swings of the bat were the biggest hits of the game. Anni Liechty launched a two-run home run to left field and Krabill sent a solo shot to the opposite field for back-to-back bombs, and just like that the game was tied 3-3.
In the bottom of the fourth, Burlington loaded the bases with one out. That turned into two more Grayhound runs and a 5-3 deficit for Mt. Pleasant. Burlington scored three more in the fifth to take an 8-3 lead.
Samantha Broeker had an RBI single in the top of the sixth, and another runner sscored on an error to cut the Grayhound advantage to 8-5. The Panthers held the Grayhounds scoreless in the bottom of the sixth and had the top of their order due up in the final inning.
Makayla Cam, Vantiger and Liechty all reached base in the top of the seventh, loading the bases with nobody out. The Grayhounds buckled down and wiggled out of the inning, getting the last out when an outfielder ran down Broeker’s deep fly ball with two outs and the bases still juiced.
“We should make those plays in that first game,” Coach Mears said, referencing a small handful of errors that led to most of the Burlington runs. “If we’re outside, do we make the plays? Probably, but it’s not an excuse. They warmed up in here, they should have caught those.”
Broeker finished 2-4 with two RBIs to lead the Panther offense in game one. Liechty went 1-3 with a home run and two RBIs. Vantiger finished 2-4, and Krabill was 1-4 with a homer and an RBI.
Sydni Coleman threw all six innings in game one. She gave up eight runs (three earned) on 12 hits and three walks, while striking out one batter.
The Hounds took the lead again in game two, plating one in the bottom of the first. Mt. Pleasant came back again in the fourth, this time tying the game up on an RBI single by Liechty.
Ava Lowery came through in the top of the fifth, bringing home a run with an RBI groundout, but Burlington bounced right back with two runs in the fifth to take a 3-2 lead.
After a scoreless sixth inning, Mt. Pleasant had one last chance to tie or take the lead. The Panthers had the 5-6-7 spots coming up in the lineup, needing at least one run.
Coleman worked a leadoff walk to give the Panthers a little momentum. She advanced to second base on a wild pitch and Broeker grounded out to advance her to third.
Hannah Newman walked to put runners on the corners, and it was time for Lowery to come up clutch again. She tied the game with an RBI single to knot the game at 3-3.
After a Grace Kelley strikeout, Cam singled in the go-ahead run, and advanced to second base on the throw home. Vantiger walked to load the bases and Liechty brought one more home with a bases-loaded walk to give Mt. Pleasant a 5-3 lead.
“We hadn’t really hit the ball very hard that game, and I knew we were due,” Coach Mears said. “We have good hitters when we do the things right. Some of them were just putting too much pressure on themselves, and I just told them to settle down, put a good swing on it and see what happens.”
A leadoff double and a two-out error spelled trouble for Mt. Pleasant in the bottom of the seventh, but Liechty stayed cool in the circle. The Grayhounds did push one run across but Liechty stranded two runners on base and locked up the win.
“The last couple of outings, she’s done a lot better,” Coach Mears said after the games. “She was zoomed in and focused today. She would just give me a little nod, but that was one of the best outings I’ve seen her pitch.”
Liechty gave up four runs (three earned) over seven innings. She gave up six hits and three walks, while striking out seven Burlington hitters.
Lowery finished the game 1-3 with two RBIs. Liechty was 1-2 with two RBIs and Cam went 2-4 with a double and an RBI.
The Panthers are now 16-6 this season. They’ll be back at home for another non-conference doubleheader on Tuesday, June 25, when they host West Burlington.