UNION MILLS — South Central coach Tony Wallace didn't lack any confidence despite his team facing a 3-2 deficit against New Prairie in extra innings on Saturday with three outs left.
Why was Wallace so confident? Because after she came into the dugout following a two-error eighth inning from her defense, Satellites' starting pitcher Holly Noveroske came in the dugout and told her coach before she stepped to the on-deck circle, 'Hey, I got this.'
On the ninth pitch of the inning from Cougars starter Lauren Wilcoxson, Noveroske mashed a 2-2 pitch high into the sky and over the fence in left field to give the Class A No. 9 Satellites a 4-3 victory on a brisk, wild day.
"Phenomenal. Just absolutely phenomenal," Wallace said on Noveroske's performance that also included a complete game eight-hitter with six strikeouts inside the circle. "She wasn't fazed. She knew she struggled in her earlier at-bats, but she pitched a heck of a game and she played her position very well. She had a line drive hit right back at her that almost took her head off, but she juggled it and somehow caught. From that point on, you had that feel like you had a little angel hovering over your shoulder for this game today."
The biggest break for the Satellites came in the top half of the fifth inning with two Cougars on base and two away in the frame. Pinch runner Megan Pinter stole third base and was originally called safe by the umpire crew, but after a lengthy meeting in front of the circle, the crew concluded that Faith Biggs' throw did get there in time and the tag by Delanie Gale was made before Pinter reached the bag.
Cougars coach Derek Hicks thought differently on the play.
"That crew, especially the guy behind home plate, had a bad day," Hicks said, also venting a few frustrations on the multiple warnings his dugout received for excessive 'commentary' that was perceived to be directed at the umpires. Hicks and his staff confirmed that none of their girls were being vocal towards the crew. "I want to go on record and say that. He had a bad day today."
Instead of runners on second and third with two outs for Amanda Trojanowski — the hitter that roped a liner back at Noveroske in the third — the Satellites got out of the jam, leading 2-1 thanks to an RBI single by Heidi Smith in the first and a big fly from Biggs in the third. The softball gods shined down on New Prairie in the next inning, as freshman Carli Tharp smacked a solo shot to right that hit square off the top of the fence and landed behind the wall to tie the game at 2-2 with one out in the sixth.
"The girls played a heck of a game today," Hicks said. "We played against a great team who had some great pitching, too. Lauren (Wilcoxson) pitched a great game today for us and we were right there in the end. We just made a couple mistakes, and in a game like this one, mistakes are going to cost you big time and they did. The pitch on the home run at the end, that was supposed to be an outside curveball, but I think (Carli) got mixed up on the signs and that'll happen when you have your backup catcher in because your usual catcher's (Allison Pavlick) knee was hurting a bit. It's tough, but she's just a freshman and she's learning. She's still a good catcher and had a huge home run for us today, too."
Kylie Briner led off the seventh for the Cougars with a walk, followed by two sacrifice bunts from Pavlick and Wilcoxson. That put Briner on third with two away and No. 3 hitter Karissa Gilpin at the dish. Gilpin filed out to right on the first pitch she saw, giving South Central the last shot at ending the contest.
MacKenzie Hudspeth — who Wallace called a "quiet hero" on Saturday — led off by reaching on a dropped pop fly from Pavlick in right field. That was right after the conditions went from dry to rainy in the seventh, and she stole second. Layla Crawford's groundout to third moved Hudspeth just 60 feet away from scoring. The Cougars intentionally walked Biggs to get to Gale, who Wilcoxson struck out for the third time in the game.
In the eight, NP's Maddie McSurley sprinted around the bags to third on a misplayed line drive by Crawford in left and scored two hitters later when Daphney Williams bobbled a groundball from Alyssa Forys at second with two outs. Forys was caught stealing second, which opened the door for Noveroske's heroics to win it after Smith's leadoff single.
"The girls really rallied around each other," Wallace said. "We had some bad bounces on some plays. We had that bobble at second base and Layla (Crawford) kinda misplayed that line drive in left in the eighth, but those things happen. I wasn't upset. It's just the way the ball bounces sometimes, but we recovered and that's what you want to see. Our best slugger (Delanie Gale) was having an off-day, but it was good to see other girls step up and contribute for us."
Reach Michael Whitlow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 214-4169. Follow him on Twitter @couldbelikemike.
South Central 4, New Prairie 3 (8 inn.)
Faith Biggs and Holly Noveroske each homered for the Satellites.