MIFFLINTOWN - In the first meeting between Juniata County's two high schools on the softball diamond, the home team took an early lead, but watched the visitor capitalize on its complacency and come back for a win.
Wednesday, it nearly happened again - Juniata took a quick lead in the first two innings, but was thankful for a game-saving run in the fifth that proved to be the difference, as the Indians topped East Juniata 4-3 in a non-league softball game.
"It was nice to get a win. We've just got to get ourselves rolling again, stay focused," Juniata coach Brian Sheaffer said. "We just wanted to try to come out here tonight and get a win and we did."
Sentinel photo by BUFFIE?BOYER
Juniata third baseman Micheh Horning, left, jumps over East Juniata’s Lisa Benner after tagging her for an out in the second inning Tuesday. Juniata’s Kristen Pray looks on.
Juniata's Kristen Pray led off the game with a solo home run, Tiffiany Shoop boarded when she was hit by a pitch and Alyssa Graybill singled to drive her in, giving Juniata the early lead.
Pray delivered again in the second, bashing a triple that pushed Madalynn Marrone across the plate. Marrone singled with one out and advanced to second on a fielding error. The 3-0 lead sustained the Indians until the game was nearly over, though.
"Pray hit the home run, a real nice ball. It just caught us a little off guard," Tigers manager Joe Schilling said.
Juniata travels to Tyrone Friday
East Juniata hosts Greenwood today
Although the crucial run came before the Tigers got on the board, it gave Juniata a benchmark to work from in the final innings, one that became necessary when East Juniata suddenly found life in a three-run sixth. It was the first time the visitors were able to get the runners off the bases; the Tigers left seven stranded across the first five frames.
"That's the story of our life it seems. That's when we have to step up our game to play better offensively," Schilling said. "That definitely hurt, our issue with the base running."
It hurt the most in the second inning, when his team was already down a pair of runs. The Tigers had a chance to at least get even if not a lead in the top of the second with runners on first and third and no outs after Lisa Benner led off the frame with a double and Kayla Hoke had a base hit. But Benner left third without seeing that a ball in play had been stopped by Juniata's Micheh Horning, who tagged the runner for the first out, and Kristen Pray made a nifty solo play on the next at-bat to stop Hoke at second.
Still, the Tigers managed to load the bases, using two fielder's choice balls and a walk, but Maddie Zendt struck out Gracen Schilling to end the threat.
"Maddie's starting to throw pretty good and that's been helping us, because that's my strongest defense when she can pitch," Sheaffer said.
The Indians didn't do much more on offense after that, as the East Juniata infield kept the score stable through two innings.
"I'm very pleased with how the girls played defensively," Joe Schilling said.
But in the fifth, Shoop walked, moved on an Alesha Reed single and scored the key run when Graybill hit into an error.
It proved timely for the Indians, who surrendered three in the next half. Hoke and Ashlyn Erhard wrapped a pair of singles around an error that started on Lauren Maguire's bat; Erhard plated the other two with her hit then came in when a fielder's choice ball was mishandled in the Juniata infield.
"We get a lead and then we just sort of go into that slow-down mode," Sheaffer said. "They did what they had to do to win."
Juniata (5-8) travels to Tyrone Friday. East Juniata (3-6) travels to Selinsgrove the same day.