Lady Pilgrims earn split at Royal Center

ROYAL CENTER — The Plymouth softball team experienced both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat during a road trip to Royal Center on Saturday in games against Pioneer and Whiting.
The agony of defeat would come first for Plymouth in dropping a 2-1, eight-inning heartbreaker to Pioneer in the opening game of the day. The Lady Pilgrims would bounce back with a last at-bat victory of their own, though, downing Whiting 4-3 on a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the seventh by April Hampton.
With senior pitcher and Ancilla recruit Marissa Sullivan out for the weekend with an injury, Plymouth turned to Britney Horvath to throw both games for the day. The junior turned in a pair of impressive performances, allowing just seven hits and four earned runs while striking out 19 in 14-1/3 innings of work.
Senior Emilee Keilman staked Plymouth to an early lead against Pioneer with a long home run in the top of the first inning. The early blast would not be a sign of things to come, however, as Plymouth would only manage two more hits the rest of the way off of Pioneer hurler Betsy Bingaman. Bingaman recorded 14 strikeouts in the game, frequently catching the Plymouth hitters looking on the corners.
After a quiet first two innings outside of the Keilman homer, both teams mounted a two-out threat in the third. Kailey Whitley’s infield single was followed by a walk to Keilman, but Bingaman got the third out on a strikeout to end Plymouth’s hope to extend its lead. In the bottom of the inning, a walk and a base hit put Pioneer runners on first and second with two outs, but Horvath got the next Pioneer hitter to ground into a force play to Morgan O’Neal at short to end the scoring chance.
Pioneer would get on the board on tie the game in the fifth.
Jessica Price led off with a walk and made her way to third by way of a stolen base and a wild pitch. With one out, Megan Smith laid down a bunt and was thrown out at first by Sommer McClellan, but Price was able to score, barely beating Sarah Iwinski’s throw home.
A quiet sixth and seventh frames sent the game into extra innings. Bailey Brown led off the top of the eighth for Plymouth with a hard grounder that the Pioneer first baseman was unable to handle, allowing Brown to reach on the error. Whitley put down a sacrifice bunt to move Brown into scoring position, but the next two hitters would go down on a popup and a strikeout to end the inning.
After playing error-free defense for seven innings, a pair or errors by Plymouth in the bottom of the eighth put Pioneer runners at first and second with nobody out. That brought Bingaman to the plate, and the Pioneer pitcher launched a fly ball to deep left-center field that Whitley was able to track down and haul in after the ball tipped off the end of her glove, but Lindsey Miller was able to tag up and score on the play to hand the Lady Pilgrims the disappointing loss.
Keilman was 2-for-3 in the game adding a single to her home run. Horvath allowed just two hits and struck out nine, but was tagged with the tough loss in the circle.
Fortunately for the Lady Pilgrims, they had little time to dwell on their disappointment, taking the field again after a short break to face Whiting in a game that started out similar to the first game for its inability by hitters to figure out the two pitchers. Plymouth only managed one baserunner, that on a Whiting error, through the opening three frames, while Horvath fanned five of the first nine hitters she faced. Whiting managed to manufacture a run in the top of the third though, using a walk, a stolen base and their first hit of the game to take a 1-0 lead.
The Lady Pilgrims finally brought the bats to life in the bottom of the fourth. Keilman and O’Neal started the inning with back-to-back singles, and after a strikeout, Samantha Wojcik dropped a fly ball into left-center field for an RBI single to score Keilman and tie the game. O’Neal was thrown out at the plate on a bunt by Iwinski for the second out, but Wojcik moved up to third and Iwinski was safe at first on the play. Horvath then lined a single to right to plate Wojcik and give Plymouth the lead. Darian Sarna followed with a line drive single to score Iwinski and move Katie Sommers, running for Horvath, into scoring position. The inning then ended on a strikeout, but with Plymouth now holding a 3-1 lead.
Whiting would not go away, though, as the Lady Oilers tied the game with a pair of runs in the sixth inning to set the stage for more late-inning drama. Whiting threatened to take the lead in the seventh when a base hit and a pair of wild pitches from a tiring Horvath landed a runner at third with one out. The junior pitcher summoned one more burst of energy and will, though, getting the second out on a popup to Iwinski at second and ending the inning with her 10th strikeout of the game.
After surviving the top of the seventh, the Lady Pilgrims seemed determined not to have a repeat of the earlier game. Brown led off for Plymouth with a hard grounder between first and second for a base hit. Whitley put down a sacrifice bunt to move Brown to second and bring up Keilman, who had solidly singled in her two previous times up. Not wanting a repeat of those two at-bats, Whiting intentionally walked Keilman to get to O’Neal. The junior shortstop laid down a bunt, and Whiting tried to get the force out on Brown at third. The freshman slid in just before the throw, though, and the bases were loaded for Hampton. The junior outfielder delivered by ripping a line drive to the left-center field fence to easily bring Brown home with the winning run and give the Lady Pilgrims the thrill of victory.
Wojcik also had a pair of hits in the Whiting game, and Keilman went 4-for-6 for the day with a pair of walks added in. Horvath threw a five-hitter and earned her second victory of the season in the win over Whiting.
Plymouth travels to Goshen today to resume play in the NLC.
• PIONEER 2, PLYMOUTH 1 (8 inn.)
At Royal Center
Plymouth: 100 000 00 — 1 3 2
Pioneer: 000 010 01 — 2 2 2
Betsy Bingaman (W) and Morgan McCall; Britney Horvath (L) and Emilee Keilman
HR: Keilman
Records: Plymouth 3-9
At Royal Center
Whiting: 001 002 0 — 3 5 1
Plymouth: 000 300 1 — 4 9 0
Britney Horvath (W) and Emilee Keilman; Lorasko (L) and Brown
Records: Plymouth 4-9