It was the top of the seventh inning. The tying runs were on base. And Slippery Rock’s Ciana D’Antoni was in the batter’s box.
The Titusville softball team needed just one more out for the victory. It was an out that has eluded the young Rockets squad several times this season.
Titusville’s Audrey Herman delivered a pitch. D’Antoni put a swing on it. And as the ball gained altitude and headed out toward center field the thought that yet another one had gotten away no doubt flickered in the minds of the Gold & Brown.
Yet, Titusville center fielder Lindsay Sines had her eyes on the ball the whole way. She swiveled her hips and sidestepped back toward the fence. She flashed the glove and put an end to the Lady Rockets’ streak of four straight losses.
Final score during Tuesday’s Region 4 game at the Ed Myer Complex: Titusville 4, Slippery Rock 2.
Titusville improves to 2-10 on the year, 2-10 in Region 4. The Rock slips to 6-7, 3-7.
“You’ve seen our scores,” said Titusville coach Jon Herman. “We’ve hung in and hung in and hung in. But it just hasn’t … we’ve kinda been jinxed. It just feels that way. It just hasn’t come around.
“Hopefully this gets the ball rolling and we can keep it going.”
The victory required a lot of resiliency by the Titusville side … well, that and a top-notch game by Audrey Herman. She pitched seven innings, yielded five hits, gave up no earned runs, walked none and struck out four.
Slippery Rock did put the ball in play. But Titusville’s defense handled it, mostly. The homestanding Rockets did get charged with five errors. But they didn’t compound the errors. They’d make a mistake, shake it off and make the next play.
“In the past, one error would become two,” said coach Herman. “We call it snowballing. We didn’t snowball today. And we made some excellent plays in the field.”
That, with Herman’s pitching, meant that Slippery Rock could only trickle in the runs. The Red & White Rockets took a 1-0 lead in the third on an RBI single by Caitlin Kunsman, and then made it 2-0 in the fourth on a run-scoring double by Paige Gresgott.
So, Titusville was very much in the game by the later innings. That would be key, since it took some time to wear down Gresgott, Slippery Rock’s pitcher.
“They had some quality at-bats,” said Titusville coach Megan Green. “They were able to get Slippery Rock’s pitcher to throw 139 pitches. And Audrey only threw 76.”
“And that,” said coach Herman, “is the hardest-throwing pitcher we’ve seen all year.”
Added Green: “(Gresgott) is good. She hit her spots. And she’ll throw junk, trying to get batters to go after it. But we kept fouling it off saying, ‘No. Give me something real.’”
A chink in Gresgott’s armor showed itself in the fourth inning when Isabella Sutley and Sines drew back-to-back walks, and Anna Smith singled to load the bases with one out.
However, Titusville didn’t get anything out of the situation, after a fly-out and a runner’s interference ended the inning.
Yet, just like Titusville did on the defensive side of the ball, the local Rockets shook it off and continued to grind at the plate.
Then in the fifth, Brianna Wynn drew a lead-off walk. She made it to third with a walk by Rylie McGarvey and a sacrifice bunt by Sutley. The Rock then committed an error off the bat of Sines, allowing Wynn to score and make it a 2-1 game.
Titusville then took the lead with a three-run sixth. Smith hit a single to the gap in center-right to lead off the inning. One out later, Sydney Green doubled down the left field line to score Smith and tie the game.
Then Hannah Peterson and McGarvie drew walks to load the bases. And Sutley hit into an error, allowing Green and Peterson to come home, making it 4-2.
The top of the seventh started well enough for Titusville. Catcher Eden Gray made an outstanding play on a swinging bunt that died on the third base line, scooping it up and making a sharp throw to first. Then Herman coaxed a come-backer to the circle for out No. 2.
It was Gray’s second big play of the game. She also threw out Gresgott at third base in the fourth inning, as the Rock pitcher tried to advance on a would-be passed ball.
“She had a great game at the plate,” said coach Green.
However, a Titusville error and a single by the Rock’s Samantha Meredith tensed things up for the locals.
Sines’ catch in deep center eased the pressure and started the celebration.
“Hopefully they like this feeling and they want this feeling to continue,” said coach Green. “We’ve tried to explain that to them and tell them that this is what it feels like and the potential you have. But we can’t get them to see that with their own eyes. Maybe this is that upswing.”