LAGRANGE — Keystone pitcher Sara Lowman entered the game Friday against North Royalton at the Prebis Memorial Classic as a scared freshman on one of the biggest stages of her young career. Seven innings later, she was on her way to becoming another Wildcat legend.
Lowman pitched a complete game four-hitter and drove in the game-winning run with one-out single with the bases loaded as Keystone defeated the Bears 4-3. The Wildcats improved to 12-3.
“The first inning, I had big jitters, but my defense had my back,” Lowman said. “After the first inning, I went back in the dugout and told one of the coaches, ‘I am so scared right now,’ and she told me ‘it’s just another game’ and that settled me down.”
Lowman’s game-winning hit capped a dramatic 11-pitch at-bat during which she fouled off six two-strike pitches and rolled her ankle tripping over first base, running out one of those foul balls. Eventually she was able to straighten out a Nikki Newman pitch and deposit it deep into the left-field corner, allowing Destiny Weber to score from third.
Weber, a freshman catcher, led off the seventh with a double to left-center field, the game’s only extra-base hit.
Morgan McNulty followed with a single to center and Carleigh Herrington was intentionally walked, setting the stage for Lowman.
“I went up to bat in the seventh inning thinking it was just another at bat,” said Weber, Keystone’s leadoff hitter. “I was confident that I was going to get a hit. I am honored coach (Jim) Piazza thinks enough of me to bat me leadoff. I get excited to start off an inning, so it was a perfect opportunity for me in the seventh.”
North Royalton (5-4) scored first in the second inning after Katie Newman walked, stole second and came home on a Kirsten Kovar RBI single to left.
The Wildcats scored two runs in the fourth inning but lost a chance for a big inning when pinch runner Darcy Irish was called out at home on a rare 8-2 fielder’s choice. Irish was tagging up at third as it appeared that Brittany Bowers’ line drive to center was about to be caught, but as the ball fell in front of centerfielder Xiomara Santiago, she had the presence of mind to fire it home just beating the sliding Irish.
Nicole Neri’s RBI single in the fifth inning put Keystone on top 3-2. However, the Bears tied the game in the top half of the seventh on a Rachel Latosky fielder’s choice.
“In the seventh inning, I told the team it was OK if they tied the game, because I had confidence that we would score in the bottom of the seventh,” Piazza said. “We’re young and we’re learning. It’s not always pretty at times. These games are a learning experience. The do or die games start in about two weeks.”