With the winning run on second and Shannon McKinley up to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning, Bruton head coach Dave Falin decided against his normal coaching strategy of playing it safe and laying down a bunt. Instead, he let McKinley decide her approach at the plate.
“She told me she really wanted to hit,” Falin said.
After fighting off several pitches, McKinley found one she liked and stroked a game-winning walk-off base hit up the middle to give the Panthers (5-1, 4-1 BRD) a 3-2 home victory over Jamestown (2-3, 2-3 BRD) in extra innings Tuesday afternoon.
“She’s been a clutch hitter for us all season. I trusted her in what she was doing,” Falin added.
The Panthers were one out away from ending the game in the top of the seventh with a 3-2 lead, but the Eagles’ Liz Henry’s RBI base hit with two outs scored Jade Petrop to tie the game.
Bruton’s Miranda Clarke and Jamestown’s Megan Dent both went the distance in what was a pitcher’s duel early on.
Clarke allowed two runs (one earned) and five hits over nine innings while striking out nine to earn the victory.
“We’re clicking,” Falin said of the pitch-calling between he and his ace. “I felt like I knew what she wanted to throw, and she executed her pitches perfectly.”
Dent (9 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 6 SO) also pitched the ball well but took the loss.
“We didn’t catch any breaks,” Jamestown coach Jerry Varacallo said after the game. “Our pitching was there, we just couldn’t get anything going offensively.”
Bruton has been streaking lately, and Falin believes that an attitude change has been the difference for a team that has won four games in a row after opening the season with a 4-0 loss to New Kent.
“They don’t take this lightly,” Falin said. “This team has been through a rough time the last couple years so they’re doing whatever they can every single game to win.”
For a team that was just 4-14 in the BRD last season, even Falin himself is surprised with the turnaround.
“I wouldn’t have put us above eighth [in the preseason] myself, but a lot of that has to do with history,” Falin said. “We typically haven’t been able to get things together, but something different has happened and I can’t put a finger on it.”
Whatever it is, the Panthers are cruising, and they’re building confidence along the way.
“We don’t believe there’s anyone in the league we can’t beat,” Falin said. “We’ve got the entire package that will allow us to compete in games, and when you can compete in games, you’re going to end up winning a few.”
Bruton 3 Jamestown 2
Bruton 001; 010; 001 – 3 7 2
Jamestown 001; 000; 100 – 2 6 0
WP- Clarke 9 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 9 SO
LP- Dent 9 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 6 SO
Bruton- SLuss 3-4 (2B, 2 RBI), McDonnell 2-3 (run), McKinley 1-4 (RBI)
Jamestown- Henry 1-3 (run, RBI, SB), Stone 2-3 (RBI, BB)