PRINCETON — On March 28, Melissa’s Lady Cardinals had the task of bouncing back from a loss — something they’d had to do only twice before in 2017 — and it involved doing it on the road against Princeton. So what could go wrong? Plenty. These Lady Panthers had knocked off Aubrey, the team that just smudged Melissa’s perfect 3-0 district mark, and they were primed for another upset.
But then the game started, and the Lady Cards quickly showed they were primed for something else. Jumping out to a 3-0 first-inning lead and adding four more runs in the fourth, Melissa eventually prevailed, 7-4. As the saying might go, bounce-back accomplished.
“I thought we did a good job, definitely, of rebounding,” Melissa head coach Eric Rodgers said. “We’ve only lost three times this year, but you always worry, you know, just to make sure they’re going to bounce back. And we had to practice inside yesterday because the field was still a mess (due to rain), so you never know. But we did well. … (Princeton) did a good job of trying to pitch us outside but, luckily, we were able to make those seven runs hold up.”
With the win, Melissa (4-1) remained tied for first place in District 11-4A — now with just Celina — at the district slate’s mid-point, a fact not lost on at least one Lady Card.
“This is the first time our team has ever finished tied for first (at this point in the season),” sophomore outfielder Anna Fortenberry said.
Fortenberry led Melissa this night with three hits, including two doubles, and two RBIs. Sophomore catcher Kylee Brakebill also collected two RBIs for the Lady Cards, on two hits, including a double.
Senior first baseman Becca Pittman had two hits as well for Melissa.
“It was really important (to win) because some of us were really down about that (last) game,” Brakebill said. “And it meant a lot, especially, to beat Princeton. … I think we had a better hitting practice yesterday. Our hitting wasn’t great on Friday. We really got our bats back out tonight.”
Sophomore Alexis Pevehouse pitched a full seven innings for the Lady Cards, permitting seven hits and walking two, with nine strikeouts. Dueling Pevehouse on the mound was Princeton’s Katy Wilson, who also tossed a full game, giving up 10 hits and five walks while striking out seven. Both teams committed three errors.
Though up, 7-0, after four innings things would still get a bit dicey for Melissa late. After chipping the lead down to 7-2 over the fifth and sixth innings, the Lady Panthers (2-3) would put two more runs across in the seventh — with nobody out. Princeton’s Cameron Wilson started it off by reaching first on an error, followed by Halie Thompson’s single to right that moved Wilson to third. Then on what Rodgers aptly described as a “squirrelly little play,” a wild pitch hit the brick back stop and shot out nearly into the home dugout as two runs scored.
“Nobody’s out and their best hitter is up,” Rodgers said. “Yeah, that was a little uneasy right there.”
But as soon as the Princeton storm had appeared, it dissipated: Ellis Woodruff grounded out to Pevehouse, and Pevehouse fanned the next two batters to end the game.
“I think after those two (scored), I knew we would finish,” Fortenberry said.
Added Rodgers, “They’ve done a good job all year, pushing through.”
Pevehouse opened the game with a single right up the middle. After she stole second, Brakebill brought her home with double to left. After a walk by sophomore Audrey Solomon, Pittman slapped a single to center to score Brakebill and Melissa led, 2-0. Fortenberry then sent a double into center field to bring home Pittman.
In the top of fourth, back-to-back Princeton errors put Katee Johnson and Pevehouse on base, setting the table for Brakebill. Brakebill promptly smacked a single to center to score Johnson and move Pevehouse to third. A Solomon sacrifice fly would bring Pevehouse home, boosting the Lady Cards’ lead to 5-0. Later, when Savannah Rodriguez was thrown out at first on a dropped third strike, Brakebill scored. Fortenberry’s single to center would then plate pinch-runner Kayla Stevenson, stretching Melissa’s lead to 7-0.