Science Hill got out of a pair of jams, pushed three runs across the plate with two outs in the fourth and escaped from Indian Highland Park with a 3-1 Big 9 Conference win over the Tribe on Thursday.
With coach Jerry Higgins serving his first game under a suspension stemming from an incident last weekend, interim coach Andy Hubbard didn’t know what to expect when he showed up for his first game at the helm.
What he got was a great outing from starting pitcher Makenzie Lilley and a spirited rally in the seventh inning that fell just short.
“We didn’t make a couple of plays we should have made and that’s the difference in the game,” Hubbard said. “I thought we played hard and we battled at the end to try to come back. That’s all we can ask of them — I’m tickled to death.”
The game was scoreless through three innings as Lilley engaged Science Hill starter Wendi Young in a classic pitching duel.
The Tribe (15-4, 7-2) loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the third and appeared ready to grab the lead. Catcher Emily Biggs lofted a potential sacrifice fly to center field, but Chelsea Ruff made a perfect throw to the plate to cut down Kourtney Bailiff and end the inning.
“We got a little late jump over there but it’s nobody’s fault,” Hubbard said of the play. “Like I said, the effort is there and they played hard but if you don’t hit when the bases are loaded, you have a hard time.”
Science Hill came up with all the runs it needed in the top of the fourth. Katye Brown laced a two-out double to the wall and Wendi Young reached on an error. Ruff delivered an infield single to bring home Brown, and a throwing error on the same play allowed Young to come home. Moments later, Ashley DeGroat’s RBI single gave the Lady Hilltoppers a commanding 3-0 advantage.
A strong showing in last weekend’s Eastman Invitational gave Science Hill a spark.
“They picked it up a notch and got back to being the team they were,” Lady ’Toppers coach Heather Peterson said. “We’re proud of them — they’re playing like they should be playing.”
D-B threatened again in the bottom of the seventh, loading the bases with nobody out. But Madi Oertling came on in relief, striking out two batters and forcing a pop-up to tally the save.
Young (5-3) picked up the win for Science Hill, giving up a run on four hits in six innings of work.
“Wendi was awesome,” Peterson said. “She’s been pitching great for us.”
Lilley was the hard-luck loser, surrendering three unearned runs and scattering seven hits across seven innings.
Young and Brown were each 2-for-3 with a run scored for Science Hill. Bailiff was 1-for-3 with a double for D-B while Lilley singled and later scored the Tribe’s lone run.