After falling 5-1 in the first game of the defacto SEC championship doubleheader at home against Mt. Pleasant Monday night, the Trojan softball team rallied for a 3-2 come-from-behind win that gave the two conference rivals a split on the night, the season and each a share of the league title.
Junior Allison Rebling had nearly the same stat line in her second start of the season against the Panthers, with the exact same 5-1 losing result despite the Trojan ace pitching well in both outings. Rebling went six innings, allowing five runs, only two of which were earned, on three hits with seven strikeouts and 10 walks back on June 10 when Mt. P scored three late runs in the sixth. Last night she went seven innings and allowed five runs, three of them earned, off of two hits with seven walks, eight strikeouts and a four-run rally in the seventh that gave the Panthers the one-game advantage going into the night cap.
Shay Drish, Rebling, Coty Engle. Hannah Simpson, Peyton McCabe and Blair Bowman each hit safely once with Simpson also drawing a walk in her two “official” at-bats. Engle’s hit was a double in the sixth with the eighth-grader scoring later in the inning.
The vibe seemed to obviously favor the visiting team between games with the Trojan dugout looking scattered during warmups. However, just before the teams really started getting ready, Simpson and her hot dog with ketchup found its way back to the FHS dugout thanks to some corralling from coach Rebling who found fellow assistant Kenady Waugh and the girls strolling leisurely back to the world of softball, something that must have helped keep the girls in the right state of mind because they were able to rally for the game two win and a share of the conference title.
Engle took the mound and went the full seven innings, allowing two runs on seven hits with one walk and two strikeouts.
“I was very scared,” said Ca-doty, the eighth-graders nickname. “I kept thinking that if I walk someone, it’s going to get their momentum up and than they’re going to hit a dong off of me.”
When asked if she is her own worst mental enemy? She simply replied, “Yes,” before expounding a bit. “Usually I’m like, ‘Why’d you just pitch that there? Dunno!?!’ and then if I pitch it down the middle and they get a great hit off me then I think about how that’s my fault, Coty.”
Regardless, Engle got the win with a little help from her new older friends.
After going 0-2 in her first two plate appearances, eighth-grader Peyton McCabe reached safely on a single to load the bases.
“I was thinking, ‘I got to get on and score somebody,’ and then I got two strikes on me and hit a high pitch. It wasn’t what I wanted, but I at least got on base. You have to have a tough mental mindset in that situation and I think I came through.”
Next up was Destiny Gridley.
“Going to the plate with the bases loaded, I knew that I had to get a big hit just to get us a run so we could win. I wasn’t really hitting well tonight, but I still had a lot of confidence because I knew that my team needed me. The night wasn’t exactly what I wanted, so it felt good after I got that hit. Peyton got a big hit in front of me and that helped because she hadn’t been hitting very well all night either.”
With the score now 2-2, freshman Jenna Norris entered the batters box.
“I try not to think when I’m in the box,” said Norris. “I’ve always been told not to think because you’re just going to get in your head and you won’t hit like you want. I just tried to put the ball into play and let them make a mistake and see what happens.”
Was the situation starting to creep into your head?
“It was kind of there, like if I don’t get a hit what will happen, but once I stepped into the box I said mind you’re gone and just focused on the pitcher.”
Norris waited until she had a 1-1 hitters count and drive an outside pitch to the second baseman.
“The pitch was outside, so I hit where you should hit outside pitches, to the right side. It went right to the second basemen, but nobody was covering first so I made it safely. It was kind of a hard hit ground ball and I have no idea why the first basemen came in towards home, but she did and there was nobody on first and when the second basemen bobbled it, I knew I had to make it down the line.”
With a 3-2 lead, the Trojans just needed to close out a Panther rally and as soon as Engle heard the smack of the bat with two outs, she knew it was over.
“She hit it to Shay and Shay always makes the play,” said Engle. “She’s such a great fielder I don’t even pay attention to her because I know it’s going to be an out.”
Could you ever expected this 2-3 months ago, Engle was asked.
“Nooooo! I was not really consistent with my pitching three months ago and I was really scared to come to varsity. Then they put me in and I started pitching a lot and I was thinking I better start practicing more because I don’t want to screw it up. Hopefully I can just keep getting better. Instead of walking them I just need to [smacks hand in glove twice.]”
Fairfield will host Albia tonight with a junior varsity doubleheader beginning at 5:30 p.m. and the older kids starting closer to 7:30 p.m.