By Don Brown
A controversial call by the umpires erased a fourth-inning Cougar run, and the Apollo E-Gals took advantage by scoring twice in the top of the ninth inning to send the Cougar softball team home from the 3rd Region Tournament once again.
The Cougars are no strangers to disappointment in 3rd Region Tournament play, but this one was especially painful as they believe they should have won the game 1-0 in seven innings.
Senior Victoria Decker was the hard-luck loser after putting forth a masterful performance through eight innings. Decker retired 23 of the first 24 batters she faced. The only blemish in that run being a fifth-inning single by Apollo’s Rachel Tanner that just ticked off the glove of Myranda Ward at first base.
Decker pitched all nine innings, allowing five hits, walking no one and striking out eight. The E-Gals hit only one ball hard all day, and that came in the fateful ninth inning when Apollo scored twice in the top of the inning.
Mackenzie Weedman hit a grounder that just eluded a diving Claire Crawford and trickled into center field for a single. Decker struck out Alyssa Barnett, then retired Katelynn Knott on a sacrifice bunt for the second out.
That brought up Apollo catcher Taylor Fenwick, who was 0-for-3 on the day. Down 0-2 in the count, Fenwick turned around a Decker pitch and drove it to the fence in left-center to drive in Weedman.
Brook Robbins then dumped a short fly into left that fell for a hit and put runners at the corners. Fenwick later scored on a wild pitch before Decker struck out Rachel Tanner to end the inning.
While Decker was good for the Cougars in the circle, Apollo’s Knott matched her pitch-for-pitch, allowing no runs on five hits. She walked no one and struck out 10. But the Cougars felt they should have had a run off her in the fourth inning.
Jessika Young reached on an error and was sacrificed to second by Megan England. Claire Crawford followed by looping a single into short left. Young had to hold up to make sure the ball was not caught, and could advance only to third base.
That brought up Cougar catcher Jordan Decker who laced a ball deep into left-center. Apollo center-fielder Kim Williams raced over and appeared to make a catch, but the ball popped out of her glove. Left-fielder Sarah Smith, though, was right there and gloved the ball for an out.
Meanwhile, Young tagged at third and crossed the plate for what appeared to be a run. But Apollo appealed the play at third, and after a consultation between the home-plate umpire and the umpire at third, Young was called out for leaving third too soon.
It appeared Young had left the base when Williams first touched the ball and before Smith made the catch, but the umpires claimed Young left before Williams first touched the fly ball.
Regardless, it was another in a long line of heart-breaking losses the Cougars have suffered in the 3rd Region Tournament and ended their season with a record of 29-7-1.