Sun Devils Top O’s, Then Fall to Pride 19-16 in Wild Contest

The Lake Region Sun Devils 16-U girls softball squad continued their summer season with three thrilling games this past week.On Friday evening, the Sun Devils traveled to the campus of Lyndon State College for a twi-night doubleheader against the Lyndon Orioles.In the opener, each club battled back and forth in a tightly contested game, with Lake Region eventually pulling out an 8-7 victory.After the O’s plated two runs in the top of the first, LR came right back with two of their own behind hits from Alyssa Royer and Melanie Gagnon to knot it up at 2-2. Lyndon would inch ahead 3-2 in the second, but again the Sun Devils would push across 3 of their own behind RBI’s from Mikalah Poginy and Bianca Mackay to retake the lead at 5-3. Again, Lyndon took the lead back in their own hands, with three runs of their own to mount a 6-5 lead. The O’s were denied a chance to increase their lead when, with runners on 2nd and 3rd and two outs, LR catcher Alex Smith made the defensive play of the game, racing back to the screen on a wild pitch third strike and fired a bolt to first baseman Hunter Cota to nail the batter and retire the side.This game was back and forth every inning, and in the bottom of the 3rd, LR scored two runs, and once again the tenuous lead was theirs, at 7-6. As you might have guessed, Lyndon scored yet again in the top of the 4th, and it stood at 7-7 entering the bottom of the frame.Michelle Thibeault would crack her second hit of the game, steal second, and score on a Hannah Brown ground out to give LR it’s third lead of the game at 8-7. Kiara Hodge came in to pitch for LR, and got a 1-2-3 fifth for LR, preserving the final 8-7 victory.The nightcap proved much more of the same, with another nail biter. After scoring in every inning of game one, LR would continue their offensive streak by scoring at least one run in each inning of the second game. With Lake Region ahead 11-8 entering the bottom of the fourth inning, Lyndon would finally grab their first lead of the game. After pushing four runs in, giving the O’s a 12-11 lead, Lyndon had runners on and their clean-up hitter stroked a hard smash up the middle. LR centerfielder Kalah Poginy made the defensive gem of the night when she charged what seemed like a sure single, picked the ball up off the ground and fired a laser beam to first to nail the batter by a shockingly easy two strides. Trailing by one entering the final inning, LR’s first five batters of Mackay, Cota, Hodge, Royer and Sabrina Roberge each reached base and scored giving LR a 16-12 advantage. Thibeault would come on to pitch the final inning, allow just a soft two out single, and give LR the doubleheader sweep.Five different pitchers each threw two innings apiece for Lake Region in the doubleheader. On Monday evening, the younger half of the Sun Devils roster traveled to North Country to pit themselves against the Newport-based 14-U Vermont Pride.LR starter Hayley Ingalls experienced some location problems in the first, and the Pride jumped out to a quick 9-2 lead. But the pesky Sun Devils would peck peck peck away, and true to their season-long goal, would manage to get something almost every inning (eventually scoring in 6 of 7 innings, giving them a streak of scoring in 17 of their last 18 innings of play).Aggressive base running, good defense, and solid pitching allowed the Sun Devils to creep back to within 9-6 in the third, 12-10 in the fourth, and 15-12 in the sixth. Always within earshot, but they couldn’t quite overcome the early deficit. Trailing 19-12 in the 7th, a 4-run rally brought them to within the final 19-16 score before the Pride finally closed the door.Melanie Gagnon led the Sun Devils with two hits, two walks, three stolen bases and four runs scored.“We’ve had a lot of wins this year where I wasn’t as proud of the effort as I was in tonight’s losing cause,” said LR coach Matt Tinker. “I saw a lot of really really good things happen out on that field tonight. At least four different girls hit the ball as hard as I’ve seen them hit all summer. Kalah, Alex, Kiara, Hayley… all ripped the ball. Aggressive baserunning. You had Britt Lantagne gritting out two innings on the mound for us after tweaking her ankle Friday. Molly Horton played a fantastic defensive game behind the plate, and I’m proud of how Hayley came back in and finished. One of the best assets a pitcher can have is a short memory.” Tinker was referencing his starting pitcher Ingalls, who despite her first inning struggles, played second base for five innings, then came back in to pitch the seventh, threw 13 of 15 pitches for strikes, and struck out the final batter she faced.“Coach (Lisa) Racine and I have seen a lot of growth this summer with our younger players. It’s been a lot of fun,” closed Tinker.The Sun Devils record now stands at 10-6-1, and will wrap up their summer season with two games this week