HOMER CITY — After losing at Marion Center on Monday, Homer-Center felt it had something to prove in Thursday’s rematch.
The Wildcats used that chip on their shoulders until the very end to squeeze out a 2-1 win over the previously unbeaten Stingers on a beautiful afternoon at Floodway Park.
“This is what softball is supposed to be all about,” Homer-Center coach Randy Thomas said.
“Softball games are supposed to be close and have a little bit of pressure in them. These are the wins you love to get. That’s a really good team that we beat, and it feels good.”
Homer-Center (3-3) plated two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning on two throwing errors to take a 2-1 lead, and then fought through a bases-loaded situation in the top of the seventh to come away with the victory.
“That’s a solid team, and we knew that,” Marion Center coach Ed Peterson said. “Their record doesn’t mean anything, and we have a little rivalry between the two schools going. It just wasn’t our day today. We didn’t get a clutch hit when we needed it, and that happens sometimes. It’s hard to keep that intensity game after game.”
With one out in the bottom of the sixth, Steph Nehrig singled to center and Breonna Ruffner reached on a bunt. Nehrig took off on the next pitch and scored when a bad throw to third base rolled into left field. Two pitches later, Julia Buggey hit a grounder to third and Ruffner scored on a wild throw to first.
“We played a solid game, and we kept chipping away,” Thomas said.
“I knew that eventually, if we got some runners on base, we could make something happen. We finally got into position where we could put some pressure on them, and that’s what we needed to do.
“We needed to make them play ball. It got a little dicey out there in the seventh, but I was very proud of them.”
The Stingers (6-1) scored their only run of the game in the second inning when Megan Risinger doubled and then scored on a Katie Dotts RBI single to center field. Marion Center loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh, but Homer-Center pitcher Abby Plowcha got Karlie Snyder to fly out to left for the final out.
“We had a chance to win it there at the end, but it didn’t work out,” Peterson said. “It was nice that we put ourselves in that situation. It was a well-played game until that one inning when we had a couple of blunders. It just happens; the girls aren’t machines. We’ll regroup tomorrow.”
Neither pitcher walked a batter, and neither team had an error until the bottom of the sixth. Plowcha pitched a complete game with four strikeouts and one walk. Risinger struck out eight and walked none for the Stingers, who hadn’t lost since the first round of last year’s playoffs.
“We didn’t play our best game on Monday, but we still played well enough to win it, and that doesn’t always happen,” Peterson said. “There are a few teams in this conference that we have good rivalries with and that are really good ball teams. Getting off the bus today, you could just tell we weren’t as pumped as you sometimes are for a home game. We came down here and played a good game. Abby pitched a heck of a game and so did Megan. What do you say? Now that we’ve lost one, it’s time to start another streak.”
The Wildcats, on the other hand, are looking to start a streak.
“It’s a big win for us,” Plowcha said. “We needed to learn how to win, and we did that today. Now we just want to keep winning. I have a great team behind me, and that’s the first time in a while we’ve played that well. My heart was really pounding there at the end, but I have confidence in my team, and it all worked out.”
Homer-Center will play in the Southern Huntingdon tournament Saturday, and Marion Center travels to Northern Cambria today. The Stingers aren’t looking ahead to next Monday’s game against undefeated Blairsville just yet.
“We’ll talk about that after our game against Northern,” Peterson said. “In the past few years, we’ve lost some close games to some good teams and then run off six or seven wins. Hopefully we can do that again. It’s all still up for grabs. One loss isn’t going to take us out of the picture.”