MINT HILL, NC – The Independence Patriots Lady Fastpitch Softball team played two big games this week against their arch-rival Butler Bulldogs. In the opener, the Patriots were away in Matthews and pulled off an exciting 9-6 victory.
The Patriots pounded out 12 hits and took advantage of some miscues defensively by the Bulldogs to go home to play the second game the following evening on their home field.
The second game was a wild high-scoring contest with 31 runs scored and some outstanding hitting and fielding play on both teams. However, in the end, the Bulldogs would prevail by the smallest of margins.
In the first inning, Butler jumped out on top scoring 3 runs on 3 hits and an error to take the lead. However, Maya Douglas led off with a double, was advanced to third base, and then Shaver lined out to left for the sacrifice fly putting Indy on the scoreboard. Indy would score their second run on an infield hit by Elizabeth Garbark, a walk to Kimber Mulkey, another infield hit by Olivia Baker, and a wild pitch scoring Garbark for the second run.
Butler added 4 more runs in the top of the second with the big blow coming off a triple with the bases loaded to empty the bases. However, the Lady Patriots would bounce back by answering with 8 runs in the bottom half of the inning. After the leadoff hitter Midori Walkup smacked a base hit, Douglas followed with a line-drive single and ended up on third base on an error in the outfield, scoring Walkup, then Mallory Shaver would blast a 2-run homer deep over the center-field fence. Garbark singled next, then Mackenzie Grant would drill a line drive ground-rule double putting runners on second and third, a pick-off attempt of Garbark went down the third-base line to score a run, while Grant ended up on third base. A walk to Olivia baker, putting runners on first and third, was followed by a 2 run double by Terris Adkins. Another base-on-balls, with two runners on, Douglas would drill a two-hop 2-run double into the right-center field gap for two more Patriot runs to end the scoring after Emma Wren would hit a long flyout to end the inning. The Patriots were now suddenly up 10-7.
In the top of the third, the Bulldogs were able to scramble 4 runs on a combination of some key hits, an error, and a couple of walks to take an 11-10 lead. Indy would go down in order for the first time in the game.
In the fourth inning, Butler would tack on a run, but Douglas would step up to the plate with two outs, and on a 2-2 count and runners on first and second, she connected and slammed a high towering drive deep over the left-center field fence for a 3-run home run blast putting the Patriots back up on top 13-12.
Both teams would not be able to score in the fifth, but Butler would add a run in the top of the sixth inning to tie the game, however, Indy bounced back with 2 runs after the first two batters made quick outs, Midori Walkup singled, the Bulldogs intentionally walked Douglas, Emma Wren would deliver an RBI double scoring Walkup, Olivia Baker worked a walk on a 3-2 pitch with a good at-bat fouling off two tough pitches, and Adkins again would deliver a hard-hit line-drive single scoring Douglas. The final out came on a line drive drilled by Shaver seemingly going up the middle was somehow caught by the Bulldog pitcher on a quick reflex reaction play. The Patriots now had a 15-13 lead and were ready to shut down the Bulldogs.
However, in this type of ballgame, anything is possible, the Bulldogs scored 3 unearned runs on 3 hits a walk and an error when a wind-blown infield pop-up was misplayed by the Indy first baseman and opened up the floodgates giving Butler a 16-15 advantage.
In the final frame, Independence had the bases loaded with two outs on two singles and a walk, on a wild pitch, the runner on third base Garbark hesitated for a second, then broke for home, the ball bounced off the backstop directly to the Bulldog catcher, with Garbark sliding headfirst, right arm and hand fully extended she was called out by the umpire claiming she was tagged on the top of her helmet with the dust flying to end the game.
From my view, with my camera battery needing to be recharged after the sixth inning, we do not have a photo. But the runner looked safe getting her hand in just before the tag in a very close play. To be fair the umpire was in a good position to make the call. However, Indy Coach Amanda Jardina did not agree to let the umpire know her displeasure while the Bulldogs celebrated their come from behind late-inning victory. Bottom line folks what a ballgame!