Lady Pilgrims open NLC with comeback win

ELKHART — Down 4-1 going into the seventh, the Plymouth softball team made a big inning happen when they needed one, scoring four times in the top of the inning to take the lead, then holding off Elkhart Memorial as Marissa Sullivan fanned Tayler Miller in an eight-pitch at bat with the tying run on third for a 5-4 Lady Pilgrims win to open the Northern Lakes Conference season.
Sullivan and Memorial’s Ali Iavagnilio were locked in a scoreless duel until the bottom of the fifth when Lauren Strausberger sent a three-run homer over the center field fence to put the Crimson Chargers on top.
The Lady Pilgrims were struggling to make good contact against Iavagnilio through the first five innings, only managing two hits by Sullivan to that point. Plymouth nearly took the lead in the second after Sullivan’s leadoff double, but Iavagnilio managed to knock down April Hampton’s hard shot back at her and make the play at first to end the inning.
Memorial managed to get runners to third in both the second and third innings with just one out, but Sullivan took matters into her own hands by ending both innings with consecutive strikeouts. In the fifth, however, the Crimson Chargers finally broke through to take a lead. Amie Kidder led off the inning with a walk and was sacrificed to second. After a strikeout, Paula Strausberger beat out an infield grounder, followed by the home run from sister Lauren.
Katie Wojcik got the Lady Pilgrims on the board with a solo home run in the sixth, but Memorial got the run back in the bottom of the inning when Alix Taber’s short fly ball to left fell in for a hit, scoring Cassie Sorg and setting up the wild seventh inning.
The Plymouth rally started innocently enough when with one out, Cassie Gaines’ fly ball to short left field was dropped for the game’s only error. Then came a succession of hard-hit balls that the Chargers were able to deflect but not make a play on. Hampton hit a shot off the second baseman’s glove into right field, then Kelsey Hartman’s hard grounder deflected off the first baseman’s glove for an infield hit to load the bases. Kristy Clemons followed with a line drive off the glove of Iavagnilio in the circle for another infield hit, scoring Gaines and leaving the bases loaded for Wojcik. After fighting off a couple of Iavagnilio offerings, the senior lined a 1-2 pitch into the left-center field gap to clear the bases and give the Lady Pilgrims a one-run lead.
The excitement was not over, however, as in the bottom of the seventh, Paula Strausberger led off with a single, her third hit of the game. Strausberger stole second after a strikeout and advanced to third on a fly ball to Hampton in left, but was left there when Sullivan fanned Miller for her 13th strikeout of the game.
Sullivan, battling with illness as well as the Memorial hitters, was also 2 for 3 at the plate including a double. Wojcik’s two extra-base hits resulted in four RBIs, including the game-winner.
Plymouth moves to 3-4 for the season and 1-0 in the NLC, while Memorial drops to 3-4 and 0-1 in the conference.
The Lady Pilgrims JV also brought home a win Monday, defeating Memorial 2-1. Britney Horvath threw a one-hitter with eight strikeouts and doubled home both runs as the JV earned their third straight win.
Plymouth goes to Concord Wedneday for another NLC matchup.
At Elkhart
Plymouth:  000 001 4 — 5 8 0 
Memorial:  000 031 0 — 4 8 1
Marissa Sullivan (W) and Emilee Keilman; Ali Iavagnilio (L) and Tiffani Collins
2B: Sullivan, Katie Wojcik (P)
HR: Wojcik, Lauren Strausberger (EM)
Records: Plymouth 3-4 (1-0 NLC), Memorial 3-4 (0-1 NLC)