Lady Pilgrims win 2-1 thriller at Memorial

ELKHART — Senior Night for the Plymouth softball team is still about two weeks away, but the Lady Pilgrims’ two 12th-graders were at the center of nearly all the action Wednesday as Plymouth manufactured a thrilling 2-1 NLC victory at Elkhart Memorial.
Catcher Emilee Keilman was in the thick of things during both Plymouth tallies, including driving in the game-winner with a two-out, seventh-inning single, while her fellow senior and batterymate Marissa Sullivan shut down the aggressive Memorial hitters with a 15-strikeout performance.
Execution, or the lack thereof, of the basics of softball proved to be the difference in a game that provided few real scoring opportunities until the later innings. Plymouth cashed in on its first opportunity in the top of the third to take a 1-0 lead, helped by a lack of defensive execution by Memorial.
Samantha Wojcik led off the inning with a double over the left fielder’s head. After a failed sacrifice attempt for the first out, Kailey Whitley got the sacrifice down to move Wojcik to third. Keilman then worked Memorial pitcher Paige Erwin for a walk and on ball four, the pitch got away from the Memorial catcher, and Wojcik would score on the passed ball.
Meanwhile, Sullivan sailed through the first time around the Memorial order, striking out all nine hitters in their first trip to the plate. In the bottom of the fourth, though, a change in strategy by the Memorial hitters coupled with a lack of defensive execution from Plymouth resulted in the tying run coming across. Paula Strausborger laid down a bunt that was mishandled by the Lady Pilgrims, allowing her to reach first on the error. After a failed sacrifice attempt, Strausborger managed to steal second, but remained there after a strikeout and an infield popup for the first two outs of the inning. Cleanup hitter Ali Iavagnilio battled Sullivan by fouling off several pitches before finally working the only walk the Plymouth pitcher would allow in the game. That brought up Christy Hill, and the left-hander managed to take a pitch the opposite way and drop a soft liner just past Morgan O’Neal at short and into left field to bring Strausborger home and tie the game.
After Memorial tied the game, it appeared Plymouth was ready to respond with a big inning in its next at-bat. Wojcik led off with another double over the left fielder’s head, and with one out moved to third when Whitley laid down another bunt, this one for a hit though as she beat the throw to first. With the infield drawn in, Keilman looped a short popup that was dropped by the Memorial shortstop as she went back for the ball. Wojcik was unable to score on the play however, leaving the bases loaded with one out. The next two hitters were retired on fly balls, however, and the Lady Pilgrims would come up empty.
Memorial had a chance to take the lead in the bottom of the fifth after Erwin doubled with one out. Pinch hitter Kara Sommers then laid down a bunt, and second baseman Sarah Iwinski, coming over to cover first, made a diving play to dig the throw out of the dirt and get to the bag in time to retire Sommers and keep what would have been a certain run from scoring. With Erwin now at third with two outs, Strausborger then bunted again, this time trying to push the ball past Sullivan into the middle of the infield. Sullivan was able to get to the ball before it could get through, however, and made the toss to Iwinski for the third out.
After Plymouth went down in order in the sixth, Memorial took another shot at taking the lead in the bottom of the inning. Lauren Strausborger hit a line shot off of Wojcik at first to reach base with one out and set up another battle between Sullivan and Iavagnilio. Sullivan would win this one though, getting Iavagnilio to go down swinging for the second out. Lauren Strausborger moved around to third during Iavagnilio’s at-bat, though, bringing Hill up again with a runner in scoring position. The result would be different this time though, as Sullivan jammed Hill up and got her to hit a routine fly ball to Whitley in center for the third out and set the stage for the last-inning excitement.
With one out in the top of the seventh, freshman Bailey Brown dropped a soft liner over third into left field for a base hit. Whitley was asked to put down the sacrifice again, and the junior got the job done once more, moving Brown to second and bringing Keilman to the plate. The senior hit a line drive to center, and when Lauren Strausborger just missed on her attempt at a shoestring catch, Brown was able to score before the Memorial outfielder could get back to the ball and get it in. The Pilgrims had a chance for an insurance run when Sullivan walked and both she and Keilman moved up a base after a pitch in the dirt. Erwin got out without any more damage with a strikeout to end the inning, but now Plymouth had a lead to protect going into the bottom of the inning.
Memorial would not give up easily though. Pinch hitter Danielle Coulahan led off with a bloop single to right and was promptly bunted over to second. Sullivan took matters into her own hands, though, registering strikeouts 14 and 15 to end Memorial’s hope for a last at-bat victory.
Sullivan scattered just four hits and allowed just one walk in earning the victory. Wojcik was the only player in the game with more than one hit with her pair of doubles.
Plymouth travels to Concord Friday for another conference matchup.
At Elkhart
Plymouth: 001 000 1 — 2 8 1
Memorial: 000 100 0 — 1 4 1
Marissa Sullivan (W) and Emilee Keilman; Paige Erwin (L) and Nikki Ambrose
2B: Samantha Wojcik (P) 2, Erwin (EM)
Records: Plymouth 6-12 (2-6 NLC)