By Brian Deakyne
MIDDLETOWN – The Lady Eagles are still on top.
After an ugly first five innings on Opening Day against in-town rival Middletown North, the Eagles scored six runs over the final two innings to erase a 5-0 deficit and top the Lady Lions, 6-5, Monday afternoon.
Battling through wind and rain for most of the day, senior third baseman Abbey Schulz completed the comeback with the Eagles down to their last out, belting a bases clearing, three-run double to left field in the top of the seventh inning, putting Middletown South on top, finally, after trailing for 6 2/3 innings.
“There was definitely pressure but I wasn’t trying too hard and that’s what [head coach Tom] Erbig told me,” Schulz said. “We were just trying to get on top.”
With two outs in the seventh inning and South trailing North, 5-3, sophomore shortstop Alex Corrigan reached base after a misplay at first base to keep the game alive. Sophomore outfielder Julia Beck followed up with an infield single and senior pitcher Alli Podmajersky squeaked a single to centerfield to load the bases for Schulz.
“I was just trying to get a single; I was just trying to keep it up and trying to keep things going, it was lucky,” Schulz said.
Middletown North, which has played as the little sister to Middletown South over the past several seasons, appeared to have the Eagles on the ropes at home, taking a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning. After taking the initial 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning, the Lions added two more runs on an error at first base that resulted in the ball rolling into right field.
And, for the most part, the Lions were the better team on Monday. Aside from a few plays, Middletown North was defensively sound and junior pitcher Audrey Thomas was on top of her game until the sixth inning.
“They didn’t make one play at the end and that cost them,” Erbig said of Middletown North. “They made all the fielding plays and they did everything they had to do, basically. They did their job, they had good at-bats, they hit the ball, and we didn’t have a lot of strikeouts against them. I give them a lot of credit, they came out and played and they wanted to play hard. We got lucky. We got lucky. We had the right person at the right time up at the end. “
Thomas allowed six runs on eight hits in her seven innings pitched, struck out three batters and walked two. On the other side, Podmajersky allowed five runs over seven innings, struck out five batters, walked four and allowed five hits.
But, with the game on the line in the last inning, Erbig said there wasn’t anyone else he would have rather had at the plate.
“No, not really, not at this point,” Erbig said. “She hasn’t had a great spring, but she decided that she was going to come out and get it done and that’s what senior leaders are supposed to do. They’re supposed to be able to get the job done when it’s their time. I was pleased it was her up there, she did a great job. If your senior leader can’t do it, who do you expect to have it done by?”
The Eagles loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, trailing by five runs. Podmajersky drove in a run on a fielders’ choice and junior catcher Veronica Zega added a run by the same virtue. In the next at-bat, sophomore first basemen Hannah Milano lashed an RBI single to center field that scored Beck and brought the deficit to two runs at 5-3.
Middletown South nearly jumped out to an early lead in the top of the first inning. Corrigan singled to left field and Beck followed that with a double to the right-center field gap, but Thomas stranded those runners on second and third.
Thomas retired 13 straight Middletown South batters between the second and fifth innings as Middletown North took control with a 5-0 lead.
“I just think it was big the way we came back – we took some pitches, we started to be a little more disciplined at the plate and we hit the ball hard,” Erbig said. “When you hit the ball hard, you get a bleeder. They got a couple hits that drove in a run off some nice pitches and just fisted it just enough and found some holes. They did a great job and they played solid defense. We hit the ball hard early and we hit the ball hard late and they played some really nice defense.”
Freshman first basemen Christine Gebhardt and senior shortstop Julie Gross had RBI base-knocks in the third inning for Middletown North.
It was the first meeting between the Eagles and Lions since Middletown South romped Middletown North on April 30, 2012, 11-1.
The two teams will play again, at South, on April 19.