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Wild final innings go Peru's way over Southwood

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SWITCH: Peru senior Danielle Wenger (R) taps the bag at first base for an out before trying for a double play at home plate during Monday night's TRC softball game against Southwood. A tight ballgame turned into a late slugfest as both teams scored six runs in the final two innings but the Tigers would prevail in the end in an 8-7 win over the Knights.
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SIGN OFF: Peru senior Maegan Sinkovics capped her final home game with the winning run as the Tigers won on a walk-off hit-by-pitch in Monday's TRC softball game against Southwood. Sinkovics was hit by a pitch herself in the first inning, later scoring the first run of the game, as the hosts won 8-7 over the Knights.

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

The first five innings of Monday night’s TRC softball game between Peru and Southwood looked like a typical, cagey conference scrap between two teams hovering around the .500 mark.

Innings six and seven, however, took both teams on a wild ride, ending with a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch that resulted in the Tigers scrapping out an 8-7 win over the Knights.

Peru head coach Katie Wyant said the team had plenty of chances early to make the game comfortable but didn’t take them, which allowed the final two innings to take shape.

“It was tight on both sides,” Wyant said. “(Southwood) was a little off-balance with Graycee (Ansari); she made it so that when there was contact, it was into a routine play for us.

“Offensively, we were making contact but not getting girls around in the first few innings and the game felt closer than maybe it should have been. We got to a point where we needed to change pitchers and offensively, it was a nice option for both teams.”

Peru got the first run of the game in the bottom of the first inning after Maegan Sinkovics was hit by a pitch, moved to second on Courtlynn Crowe’s sac bunt and scored on an Ansari single.

The Tigers missed a chance to score with the bases loaded in the second inning after a pair of fielder’s choice plays saw the lead runner out at home on the first and the final out of the inning on the second.

Caitlyn Mongosa would get things rolling in the third inning with a two-out single, moving to second base when Kylie Wolfe drew a walk and scored on an Abby Martin single to double the hosts’ advantage.

Southwood finally got on the base paths in the fourth inning after MaKenna Pace lanced a triple to the center field fence and scored on a passed ball to cut the deficit in half.

Back-to-back singles from Tabitha Thomas and Keagan Simpson threatened to get a rally going but Ansari, who before the triple had retired 11-straight batters to start the game, got a strike out to end the threat.

Makenlie Lambert, who started in the circle for the Knights, gave way to Pace in the bottom half of the inning with the junior avoiding a pair of tricky spots to keep the score at 2-1 headed into the sixth inning.

It was at this point that the game, which had been tightly contested, deviated hard off its original course and turned into a wild sprint to the finish.

Ansari was replaced in the circle by Karsynn Beattie, who promptly was hit for back-to-back singles by Kassity Simpson and Madelyn Turner with Pace bringing in one run on a ground out and Thomas the other with a sac fly to right field, giving Southwood a 3-2 lead.

Peru answered with a flourish, starting with Haven Wolfe reaching on an error and a Birchfield opposite field single.

Sinkovics loaded the bases on a fielder’s choice where all runners reached safely, setting up Crowe to plate three with a double to the left field fence.

Crowe later scored on a wild pitch and though the Tigers would get runners on again, the hosts did not add to the lead but did hold a 6-3 advantage going into the final inning of play.

“Those four runs were huge,” Wyant said on the scores in the sixth. “We seemed a little content up to that point and to see some good hits go through and runs cross the plate, it gave us momentum that we needed to ride on going into the seventh.”

Kayla Mays and Aaliyah Douglass singled to open the seventh before Erin McGouldrick hit a low lob towards first base.

Danielle Wenger got under the ball but had trouble securing it and the ball eventually hit the dirt and kicked away.

Initially, McGouldrick was ruled out on a catch with the ball being lost in transition but upon appeal, the ruling was overturned and McGouldrick ruled safe.

A counter appeal was then launched for an infield fly rule to be enforced but that appeal was turned down.

While the melee at first was taking place, Mays scored and Douglass moved to third base and once the conferences had finished, Lambert put down a sac bunt to move McGouldrick to second base.

Kassity Simpson followed with a grounder to third base that resulted in an errant throw back to home plate, allowing the first run to score and, as the ball left the field of play, an additional run came in, tying the game at 6-6.

Wyant said the consternation of the events beforehand could have been alleviated by making the same plays the team had made earlier in the game but missing out on them compounded problems further.

“You can’t have everything go your way,” Wyant said. “There’s calls that seem to benefit you, calls that seem to hurt you and it’s a coin-flip when that happens.

“When it came down to it, we had to execute and make the routine plays, which we didn’t. Southwood got some momentum from that and rode it.”

Pace capped the chaotic half inning with a double to center field that plated Simpson, giving Southwood a 7-6 lead heading into the final half inning of play.

The Tigers needed just five pitches to tie the game back up.

Haven Wolfe grounded out to third base for the first out while Mandy Birchfield followed with a triple to the center field fence and Sinkovics brought her in with a single to level the score at 7-7.

Crowe battled for a walk on nine pitches and after Ansari flew out, Mongosa followed with a walk to load the bases for Kylie Wolfe.

Pace came too far inside on a 2-1 count and plunked Wolfe in the arm, resulting in the winning run being forced home to cap off a bombastic final two innings of play.

“Patience is a key thing on offense,” Wyant said on the events leading to the winning run. “Getting gritty and working the count is a tough situation for the girls to process at times because they want to go up and get the big hit but sometimes it’s about being patient until you get the opportunity to get the hit.

“Fortunately, the last couple of girls got walks to get on base and got the hit-by-pitch to win.”

Peru closes its TRC slate Wednesday when the team travels to Northfield.

Wyant said the squad had unpleasant memories of last season’s 7-2 loss and wanted a more spirited effort heading into the final few games of the season.

“Last year, Northfield came in and handed it to us,” Wyant noted. “We have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder from that.

“We’ve talked to the girls about the intensity and the fire that needs to come to win this out. It’s important going into our final conference game and sectional play that we have the drive and desire to fight for everything.

“We showed great moments of that tonight but also things we need to polish up because we didn’t come through on them when we needed to,” Wyant added. “We’ll brush things up and bring a strong, competitive fight in on Wednesday.”