Pangburn has been dealt a tough hand this season with several injuries, including a season-ending injury to standout junior catcher Kayla Gray. Facing adversity again on Tuesday while trailing McCrory 4-0, the Lady Tigers showed tremendous grit and determination by rallying with two runs in the sixth inning and two more in the seventh, capped by Emily Osborne’s two-out, 2 RBI single, forcing extra innings.
Gray’s replacement, Maggie Stewart, then drove home the winning run in the eighth inning as Pangburn celebrated a 5-4 comeback victory over the Lady Jaguars in a nonconference game between two Class 2A foes at Pangburn City Park.
Pangburn Coach Scott Hoffman was proud of the way his team kept battling. “That’s how this season has gone. We’ve had injury after injury, two broken legs, a bad cut and several kids sick. This season hasn’t gone as we planned but one thing we’ve learned how to do is fight.
That’s what I’ve been stressing to my kids. We’ve got to fight because it’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be pretty. If we fight games like this can help us make the regional tournament and then you are just one game away from state. Last year we were a No. 4 seed and beat a No. 1 seed to go to the state tournament. We’ve got to find a way to get it done with the odds stacked against us and we found a way today.”
McCrory pitcher Dakota Conerly and Pangburn starting pitcher Kayla Butcher both worked through the first two frames with little trouble but the Lady Jaguars jumped in front with a run in the third inning.
Miranda Reynolds led off with a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice-bunt by Haley Mann. Kendall Browning followed with an RBI groundout to Kristen Kerby at first base, scoring Reynolds for a 1-0 lead.
Conerly pitched around a one-out single by Raven Matthews in the bottom of the third, preserving the Lady Jaguars’ 1-0 lead, which they expanded upon in the fourth with two runs on two hits.
Conerly was hit-by-a-pitch and she took second on a wild pitch before Brooke Womble lined an RBI double to centerfield, scoring Conerly for a 2-0 lead. Butcher responded with a strikeout but Kaylee Creasey lifted a deep fly-ball to the outfield that was mishandled, allowing courtesy runner Shadow Graves to score easily.
Bailey Breckenridge beat out a bunt single and both runners moved into scoring position before Butcher retaliated with a pair of strikeouts, keeping the Lady Jaguars’ lead at 3-0.
Conerly retired the Lady Tigers in order in the bottom half of the fourth with the help of a smooth back-handed play by Creasey at first base.
Butcher only allowed a hit batsman in the top of the fifth but Conerly quieted Pangburn again in the bottom half, pitching around a throwing error that allowed Stewart to reach safely. With one out, Womble threw out courtesy runner Kristen Butcher trying to steal second and Conerly induced Jeslin Moiser into a groundout to Browning at second, ending the fifth.
In the top of the sixth, McCrory added an insurance run as Addy Gammill reached on a throwing error, then pinch-runner Haley Roberts moved around to third on a pair of wild pitches and scored on a passed ball. Butcher evaded further damage with a strikeout, leaving a runner stranded at second.
Trailing 4-0, the Lady Tigers chipped away at their deficit in the bottom of the sixth, starting when Matthews reached on a fielding error. With one out, Kayla Butcher, who reached on a fielder’s choice, advanced to second on a wild pitch and to third on a passed ball before scoring when Osborne lifted an RBI sacrifice-fly to center.
Then, Autumn Franks reached on a throwing error before Kerby drilled a single to the gap in right center. With runners at the corners and two out, Hannah Snowden’s grounder to the left side turned into an error, allowing Franks to score as Pangburn trimmed its deficit in half at 4-2.
Conerly got out of the inning when Melissa Matlock lined out to Mann in left field, leaving runners stranded at first and second.
Kerby, a hard-throwing lefty, relieved Butcher to start the seventh and struck out two of four batters she faced ¬ only allowing one base runner on a walk.
Down to its final three outs, Pangburn rallied in the bottom of the seventh as Stewart beat out an infield single on a chopper to the left side, then Moiser legged out an infield single on a grounder deep in the hole at shortstop.
Stewart and Moiser moved into scoring position on a wild pitch but Conerly notched a strikeout and retired Butcher on line drive to Gammill at shortstop. With two out and facing a 2-2 count, Osborne delivered in the clutch, roping a 2 RBI single through the hole on left side, scoring Stewart and Moiser as Pangburn knotted the score at 4-all.
Conerly got out of the seventh on a groundout but Kerby blew away the Lady Jaguars in the eighth, racking up two strikeouts while retiring the side in order.
In the bottom of the eighth, Pangburn started with Franks at second base in accordance to extra-inning softball rules for the state. Franks moved to third when Kerby sent a grounder to the right side that turned into an error and McCrory elected to intentionally walk Snowden, leaving a force out at any base.
With the bases loaded, Conerly induced Matlock into a grounder to third, where Britney Garner made the play and took the force out on Franks at home. Then, with one out, Stewart clinched the Lady Tigers’ amazing comeback with an RBI single past third base and into left field, scoring Kerby for a thrilling 5-4 victory.
Pangburn improved to 9-10 overall heading into Thursday’s 2-2A conference game at White County Central. The Lady Tigers host Des Arc for a nonconference game today at 4:30 p.m. at Pangburn City Park.