Matty Richardson capped off an improbable rally by driving in Michelle Drey with the winning run in the bottom of the seventh, as St. Mary's came back from a five-run deficit to shock the Alta Cyclones in Storm Lake on Tuesday night, 6-5.
The Panthers were held scoreless through the first five innings by the strong pitching of Brooke Sliefert, but capitalized on four Alta errors in the bottom of the sixth to tie the game at 5-5, setting the stage for Richardson's two-out heroics in the bottom of the final frame.
The win by St. Mary's overshadowed a strong offensive performance by the Cyclones, and Alta head coach Megan Cooper was frustrated with her team's collapse in the last two innings.
"I don't understand how we lose those games," Cooper said. "We were ahead by five runs and then lost the ballgame. Four innings we left the bases loaded. That is unacceptable."
St. Mary's head coach Phil Skamser, meanwhile, was excited about the way his team came back after being down 5-0.
"I think it's definitely a good confidence-builder," Skamser said. "It will be something that we can look back on down the stretch if we're ever down in a game again, because we know we can come back now."
After Alta scored one run in the first inning, the Cyclones strung together three runs in the fifth. After Heidi Meyer reached base with a hit, she scored when the Panthers made an errant throw following a Maggie Lichtenberg hit to center field. Johanna Grieme then drove in Lichtenberg with a single, and Grieme eventually came home after a hit from Jess Garrison and walks by Elissa Stevens and Jenny Mahr.
Bridget Smith and Abby Richardson started off the Panther rally in the sixth with singles, and Michelle Drey then laid down a bunt that Alta third baseman Jess Garrison could not get to in time, loading the bases with no outs. A Matty Richardson single to short right field drove in Smith and Abby Richardson.
After a fielder's choice, Rust brought home Michelle Drey when a grounder took a big hop and hit Garrison in the chest, and Michelle Weaver then tied the score at 5-5 when her groundball went through the legs of Grieme at second base and Stevens in right field, allowing Matty Richardson and Rust to touch home plate.
In the bottom of the seventh, Michelle Drey hit a single between third base and shortstop, stole second base, and then scored the winning run when Matty Richardson drove a pitch into the gap between center and right field.
The win was the fourth straight for the Panthers (7-9 overall, 6-4 NWC), and Skamser said he feels the team is making huge strides in both performance and confidence.
"I think there was a point in the season where we would have folded up the tents and gone home, but we've been playing with more confidence lately," Skamser said. "That helped us out a lot."
St. Mary's also won the JV game, 9-0. Ashley Langner struck out eight Cyclones and allowed only one hit.