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GRANVILLE — The setting for the Putnam County softball team’s home game against Lowpoint-Washburn/Roanoke-Benson on Tuesday was one of a B-list horror movie.
The sun was hid by dark, intimidating rain clouds.
The scoreboard — moved from the right baseline to left field before the start of the season — didn’t show any numbers nor a single light.
Neither team seemed to be the protagonist of the movie until the Lady Panthers put together a five-run fifth inning to defeat the incoming storm and the Lady Wildcats 5-0.
“We knew what to expect from the pitcher because (PC coach Chris Walker) knew a lot of stuff about her, so we practiced hitting a slower pitcher than what we’re used to,” Lady Panther third baseman Nikki Mertel said. “Once we got going, we got good hits.”
PC notched six hits against the Lady Wildcats’ ace Miranda Grandy during her seven innings in the circle.
Half of those hits came in the bottom of the fifth inning in a scoreless contest. PC first baseman Venessa Voss led off with a single, and Stephanie Wilson reached first on a perfectly placed bunt.
The next two Lady Panthers were two of Grandy’s 11 strikeouts, although second baseman Taylor Pettit reached first on a dropped third strike and error.
The error not only put Pettit on base, but brought Allison Voss (courtesy runner for her sister Venessa) across home plate for the first run of the game.
“We started with a Venessa Voss single ... all you need is to get the door open and then you just run through it as hard as you can,” Walker said. “We were playing very uninspired for four innings — we can’t do that. It doesn’t work that way, so we had a chat and said ‘You have to get fired up and start coming out here and playing to our abilities.’
“And they did. That’s the nice thing about them, but the thing that worries me about them.”
Mertel then brought Wilson home on a bizarre play in which she tipped the ball on a 3-1 count and the Lady Wildcats threw to first base, allowing Stephanie Wilson to score from third.
After some confusion and a discussion between the umpires and each coach, the run counted.
Pettit scored a pitch later on a groundout by Mertel.
Designated player Lauren Colby followed up with a triple into deep left field. Shortstop Monica Monroe was walked to bring clean-up hitter Annie Miller to the plate.
Miller rose to the challenge and blasted a two-RBI single past Lady Wildcats third baseman Kylee Durst to give the Lady Panthers a 5-0 lead.
The PC bats may not have seen light until the fifth inning but the defense and the pitching of ace Shelby Yepsen did.
PC’s hurler had a no-hitter going until L-W/R-B’s lead-off hitter Miranda Osborn hit a single in the sixth inning.
Yepsen only allowed three hits while striking out 13 and walking two.
She struck out two batters in six of her seven innings and didn’t allow more than three Lady Wildcat batters to come to the plate until the sixth inning.
“Both pitchers were dialed in. They were playing a really good game on both sides. She was fooling us with her location and we weren’t doing a very good job of adjusting there for a while,” Walker said. “Shelby came back — steady as always — hung in the game and did her part to even the playing field.”
With the horror flick of a game almost over with, Yepsen and the PC defense stuffed the L-W/R-B two-single seventh inning rally.
The ace struck out the third and fourth batters of the frame and Pettit connected with Voss on a routine 4-3 groundout to secure the win.
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.
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