Indians rough up Greenwood

MIFFLINTOWN – Both teams took their bruises before the final runs crossed the plate Friday when Juniata took a tough 10-8 win over Tri-Valley League softball opponent Greenwood.

In the very black and blue affair that included four hit batters and two players on the field stung by line drives, it was Juniata that came out on top with a four-run rally in the bottom of the seventh, while Greenwood pitcher Amy Heggenstaller had both the literal injury and the figurative insult in the loss.

Heggenstaller’s troubles began with the Indians’ first at-bat of the sixth. In the top half of the inning the Wildcats put together some timely hits and took advantage of a throwing error in the infield and a misplayed ball in the outfield for four runs and the 7-6 lead, but in the bottom half of the inning Victoria Cisney struck a stinger back to the mound that caromed off Heggenstaller’s glove-side wrist with an audible crack.

The pitcher fell to the ground in pain while her team completed the 5-3 out, but after an almost 10-minute delay, Heggenstaller was iced up and back in the circle.

From there, she fielded a grounder back to the mound by Micheh Horning for the second out and forced a second 5-3 ground out on Summer Swab to complete the inning, but the painful moments weren’t yet complete.

A Becca Staley RBI ground out increased the Wildcats’ lead to 8-6 in the top half of the seventh, but when Heggenstaller resumed the circle in the bottom half, she hit three straight batters to load the bases.

Not to go without an injury of their own, the Indians then had to take a timeout when base runner Megan Shoop was hit by a line drive in foul territory from batter Mady Marrone, but the true injury happend two pitches later when Marrone hit one that went straight back to Heggenstaller, and this time it was enough to take the pitcher out of the game.

There were no outs and Shoop scored on the play, making it 7-7, and a second run crossed when relief pitcher Miranda Gutshall walked Hannah Welfley with the bases loaded. The Indians then sealed the win when, after a force out at home, Cisney ripped the ball to right field to bring home Marrone and Welfley for the 10-8 final.

Greenwood coach Troy Gantt said Gutshall’s pitches in the seventh were her first at the varsity level.

“She was starting to get to the point there where she was throwing strikes, and then she had to face the top of the order. That’s not a position anybody wants to be in,” he explained.

He also praised his ace Heggenstaller’s performance, noting it as a possible inspiration for his team that has struggled through the season with just one win.

“That was a gutsy performance,” he said. “That’s the kind of performance that I think this team needed maybe to bring it together a little bit.”

The Indians struck often in the early innings of the contest, collecting six runs on six hits through the first three. An RBI single to left by Cisney scored one in the first, and Samantha Saner brought one home with a deep hit to center in the third, but the most notable hit was Welfley’s drive down the left-field line for a grand slam in the second.

While the Indians scored their runs through the first three innings, the Wildcats struggled to get them across, stranding seven runners and collecting just two hits.

Juniata pitcher Autumn Young had six walks in the contest – two of them in the first three innings – but exhibited much poise for a freshman in the top of the third when a fielder’s choice and two straight errors had the bases loaded on one out, but Young induced a pop out to second and fielded a grounder back to the circle to get out of the inning unscathed.

“Usually our defense is strong – tonight we had a couple miscues – but she fought her way back and she’s done well for me all year,” Juniata coach Brian Sheaffer said.

The Wildcats broke out of their scoreless slump in the fourth when Nikki Willi and Heggenstaller hit back-to-back triples for three runs, making the score 6-3 before Greenwood’s big four-run inning in the sixth for the brief lead.

Sheaffer said that while he was happy for the win, it was during that stretch from the fourth to the sixth that his team’s batting died down, allowing Greenwood to get back in the game.

“We had plenty of runners on base, and we didn’t take the opportunities when we needed to,” he explained.

For both teams, heavy rain early in the contest likely played a role in the number of walks issued and errors commited in the field.

Greenwood (1-8, 1-7) will resume action on Monday when it hosts Perry County rival Newport. Juniata (5-4, 5-4) also has a rival game Tuesday at East Juniata.