Pinch-hitter Paige LaPoint’s suicide-squeeze bunt in the bottom of the sixth inning gave fifth-ranked Springfield another run late during a 5-3 victory against Perrysburg on Thursday.
In its effort to keep pace in the Northern Lakes League softball standings, preseason favorite Springfield had to sweat out the finish of a game against Perrysburg on Thursday night.
Kayleen Jurski helped Perrysburg keep close before its seventh-inning rally fell short at Springfield.
The visiting Yellow Jackets had the tying runs in scoring position with two outs in the seventh inning before Springfield junior ace Bre Buck retired her pitching counterpart, Kayleen Jurski, on an infield popout to close out a 5-3 victory for the fifth-ranked Blue Devils.
The win pushed Springfield to 17-3 overall, 6-1 in the NLL, and kept the Devils within a game of first-place Southview (11-6, 5-0), which beat Anthony Wayne on Thursday night.
“It could’ve been a tie game, and that just showed her experience on the mound,” Springfield coach Rob Gwozdz said of Buck. “Being a junior, and being the all-district pitcher in this area, I’m very proud of her. Our defense didn’t give her much help today.”
Buck (11-1) scattered nine hits while striking out three and walking none. But six of those nine Perrysburg hits came in the final two innings, and the Jackets (6-9, 3-3) rallied late.
Blanked through five innings by Buck, Perrysburg soon appeared poised to pull the upset.
Jackets shortstop Katie Dunphy (3 for 4) started the sixth inning by reaching base when her fly ball was dropped by Devils right fielder Jacey Gray.
When Raegen Vickers, Tylah Remaley, and Jurski each followed with fortuitous singles — an infield hit and two bloopers to short right — Perrysburg scored to get within 4-1 and looked ready to score more with no outs and the bases loaded.
But Deanna Granata popped out to Buck between home and the circle, and courtesy runner Hannah Weiker was doubled up on Taylor Tafelski’s lineout to Devils third baseman Brianna Espino, spoiling the potential rally.
“We definitely left too much on the table, and that’s been one of our issues throughout the season,” Perrysburg coach Ryan DeMars said of not fully cashing in on the late rallies. “We’ve had a lack of timely hitting, and we’ve made too many errors.
“You can’t expect to beat a great team like Springfield if you’re going to leave opportunities unfulfilled. That was an issue today for sure.”
Springfield added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when pinch-hitter Paige LaPoint executed a suicide squeeze to score Kierra Hague. Hague had singled, stolen second, and moved to third on a groundout.
The Yellow Jackets refused to roll over, even after Buck retired their first two batters during the seventh inning.
McKinley Harlett reached base on an error by Springfield second baseman Libby Mathewson, and Dunphy, Vickers, and Remaley capitalized on the new life by delivering successive singles.
Remaley’s hit to center field scored two runs, and a throw to the plate left Vickers at third and Remaley at second.
On a 2-2 pitch, Jurski popped to Mathewson to end the game.
“We were making errors, so I knew I had to pitch through it,” Buck said of escaping the jams. “We got a break. We’re usually good at scoring runs, but we’ve got to play better defense.
“We cannot afford to lose, and we need to beat Southview the next time. We just can’t lose any more games.”
Springfield scored its first two runs in the first inning, with Buck helping her own cause with a two-run double down the left field line. The Devils added two more runs on four hits in the fourth inning, with Kiley Aller coming through with a two-out, two-run single to center.
“Kiley Aller got us two huge runs there [in fourth], and then Paige LaPoint coming off the bench and getting down that suicide squeeze was big,” Gwozdz said. “That’s what we’re known for, and she came up there and pulled it off. That was a big run.
“This league from top to bottom is one of the strongest in the state of Ohio, and you can’t take any days off. There’s a bunch of teams near the top.”
Springfield and Southview each have NLL games today and Monday before meeting each other Wednesday at Springfield. The Cougars beat the Devils in an earlier league contest.