Osbourn 1, Osbourn Park 0
There was pressure enough on Osbourn freshman Robin Botkin when she stepped to the plate with two outs and a runner on first in the bottom of the 11th inning of a scoreless tie with Osbourn Park on Tuesday.
Then, when freshman Caitlin Davis scooted to third on an errant pickoff throw, that only turned up the heat on Botkin, a recent addition to the No. 8 Eagles' lineup.
At that point, she had a chat with Coach Renee Leake that Leake recounted after her team's crucial 1-0 home win:
Botkin: "I am so nervous."
Leake: "Look, it's the bottom of the 11th inning, we got a runner at third, this is a big game. You could win it right here. . . . Did I put any pressure on you?
Leake: "You know what, if you get a hit, great. If you don't, that's all right, we're going to come back and do it again."
Botkin indeed ended the game in that at-bat, rapping a 2-2 pitch in the hole to Osbourn Park senior shortstop Tamara Poles, who bobbled the ball and fired late to first as Davis crossed the plate.
The victory revived Osbourn's hopes of winning the Cedar Run District regular season title. A loss would have plunged the two-time defending state semifinalist Eagles (14-2, 2-2) deep into third place, forcing them to win a hotly contested No. 2 vs. No. 3 game in the district semifinals to have any chance of continuing their string of Northwestern Region tournament berths.
"We said you need to play this game like it's a championship game, and it really could come down to that," Leake said. "I think that's what they did."
Osbourn junior pitcher Cristi Ecks, who had given up five runs to the Yellow Jackets in the first inning of a 5-0 loss late last month, fanned six batters in the first three innings Tuesday and finished with 11 strikeouts.
Osbourn Park (12-5, 3-1) repeatedly botched sacrifice bunt attempts, which had not been a team weakness this season, Coach Willie Lemay said. The Yellow Jackets twice failed to advance senior Erin Myers when she led off the third with a single. They had a runner thrown out at second on a steal attempt for the second out of the fourth. They put two runners on in the fifth. They had a runner cut down at third in the ninth by sophomore right fielder Jamie Jansen, after a throw to first on a successful sacrifice bounded into right field.
In the 11th, Yellow Jackets freshman Mandy Craig led off with a double, her second hit. Another failed bunt for the first out left her at second. Eagles junior center fielder Brittany Lansdowne made a running grab in center for the second out. And Ecks retired the next batter on a groundout.
"As long as we sacrifice, move the runner over . . . what that does is throw [the pressure] back on them and creates a whole new ballgame," Lemay said.
Osbourn Park's costliest mistakes came in the bottom of the 11th, after Osbourn freshman Davis reached on an infield hit with one out. Lemay thought she was meandering off first and called a pickoff play. Sophomore catcher Lauren Hensley's throw sailed past the bag and then rolled into the corner past junior right fielder Adrienne Johnson, who was backing up the play. Davis raced to third.
"We work on that play day in and day out," said Lemay, whose team plays No. 3 Stonewall Jackson tomorrow. "I don't care if it's two outs. They have a good hitter at the plate [Botkin], and they have a good hitter behind her [Lansdowne, at No. 3 in the order], so if we can get by her . . . we were on to another inning. You roll the dice."
Botkin, who came back from an arm injury late last week to fill the designated hitter spot in the order, followed with her grounder to Roanoke College-bound shortstop Poles, who had cleanly handled the other six balls hit her way. After the initial bobble, Poles found the handle, but Botkin beat her throw by a step or so.
"I was like, 'Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, get there,' " Botkin said of her jaunt from the batter's box down to first.
Yellow Jackets sophomore Alysha Demarest had thrown 17 consecutive shutout innings against Osbourn until giving up the unearned run in the 11th. At one point Tuesday, she retired 14 consecutive batters.