Prep softball: Eagle's View edges Peniel with monster rally
Three outs left.
That was all the Peniel Baptist Academy softball team needed to clinch the victory and hand District 2-2A rival Jacksonville Eagle’s View Academy its first district loss for the year.
Three outs and up 6-1. Easy layup, right?
Well that’s when everything fell apart like a house of cards.
Eagle’s View scored seven times in the top of the seventh against starter Paige Bryan, highlighted by a go-ahead, three-run triple by Audrey Owenby, and went on to an 8-6 victory at Rotary Park to maintain its perfect district mark at 8-0. The loss dropped Peniel to 12-5 overall and to 8-2 in the district.
The Eagle’s View Warriors (13-4 overall) escaped in spite of eight errors.
Peniel played flawless ball in the field for six innings with a makeshift infield caused by the absence of senior leader Ashley Spedden, down at Southeastern University in Lakeland to view the school. But all the good got wiped away with a nightmare seventh that all but clinched Peniel the second seed for the district tournament, which it hosts later in the month.
“It tears you up,” first-year Peniel coach Jeff Hutchins said. “But it’s something to build on and I do think the team will learn from this. They learned you have to play seven full innings because one little lapse and it can cost you.”
Bryan (11-5) had command of the inside part of the strike zone, striking out 10 of the first 19 Eagle’s View hitters she faced. But as the game went on, Eagle’s View adjusted to Bryan and the inside corner. Bryan could not strike any of the last 15 batters she came against.
“They were starting to figure (Bryan) out,” Hutchins said. “They fouled off pitches on that corner and just kept fighting and staying alive at the plate. Then they turned on those pitches in the seventh.”
The top of the seventh began when Cassidy Stevens hit a humpback liner that Bryan misjudged as it skirted past her glove and landed behind her for an infield single. Two pitches later, winning pitcher Cassadie Thompkins hit a harmless pop-up that Bryan raced in on the third-base side of the plate to catch. However, catcher Lexi White was in the wrong place at the wrong time. White could not get out of the way of the charging Bryan and a collision led to Bryan dropping the ball while still in fair territory. The error on White led to Stevens rushing to third and Thompkins getting to second.
Kat Stella hit a harmless grounder that first baseman Abi Collier took her eye off of for an error, allowing Stevens to score, making it 6-2.
After Bryan nabbed a line drive by Saryn Parman for an out, Gabby Owenby, struck out three times by Bryan, hit a ball up the middle that looked like Stella, who was on second, got in the way of shortstop Rylee Romay. The ball got past Romay and into center field for a base hit, scoring both Thompkins and Stella, making it 6-4. Hutchins rushed out to argue his point for interference on Stella, but the call was not overturned.
Kasey Hoffman, who was 0-for-3 up to that point, blooped a single to right-center field to send Owenby to third. After Sydney Hunt was plunked by Bryan to load the bases, Audrey Owenby came up. On a 1-1 inside pitch, Owenby turned on it and put the ball just inside the third-base line and out of the reach of third baseman Alexis Wallace, clearing the bases and giving Eagle’s View a 7-6 lead. An infield hit by Jessica Rauch allowed Owenby to score the final run of the inning.
Peniel threatened in the bottom of the seventh against Thompkins when Bryan doubled to center field and Collier reached on a single up the middle that shortstop Gabby Owenby smothered, making Bryan stay at third. Collier stole second to put the tying run in scoring position. But Thompkins stepped up to strike out White looking, get Allyson Pfeil to pop out and Dylana Lynn to ground out and end it.
“Ashley not being here was a little bit of a factor,” said Hutchins, whose defense contained one junior and the rest being freshmen, eighth-graders and seventh-graders. “But I liked the way we attacked early on. We were aggressive in the beginning.”
White’s RBI single highlighted a two-run first inning. Pfeil made it 3-1 with a double that one-hopped off the left-center field fence in the fourth inning. A Bryan groundout in the fifth brought home Romay to make it 4-1 and the Warriors added two more runs in the sixth, one on a Romay single, to take the 6-1 lead into the seventh.
White finished 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI, while Romay, Bryan, Collier, Pfeil and Wallace added one hit each. The Warriors return to action Thursday at Gainesville Countryside Christian.