Columbia held on to first place Tuesday by beating Clearview 5-2 in an epic battle that went three extra innings on a beautiful, sunny afternoon.
The game was nearly perfect, as well, except for five errors.
Columbia (14-2, 7-0) scored four in the top of the 10th, sparked by Emma Sullivan’s double to deep right that drove in the go-ahead run and eventual game-winner.
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Clearview (11-4, 5-2) didn’t quit, though, scoring a run in the bottom of the 10th before Kristen Teleha, who drove in a run with a single to left, made the last out trying to stretch her hit into a double.
Besides getting the winning hit with her second double of the game, Sullivan had her own personal excitement in another way.
She was pressed into duty as a second backup catcher in the ninth inning when the starter and her replacement had to leave in the eighth inning due to commitments at school. The Raiders also had a third starter already out due to school functions.
What made that really interesting was Sullivan had not played catcher since she was in the fifth grade. She even had trouble getting into her knee protectors because they were slightly too large.
“I guess I have myself to blame,” she laughed after the game. “Last year when we lost our main catcher due to an injury I was joking around and said, ‘I’ll be your catcher.’ I guess the coach remembered that remark because he called on me today. I was nervous out there for sure, especially when they (Clearview) got a runner to third.”
She wasn’t nervous when she drilled the clutch double that won the game, however.
“I hit an outside curveball, the same pitch I hit for my other double,” Sullivan said. “I didn’t think at first the second hit was going to drop. But it did.”
For most of the day, the game was a pitchers duel. Clearview’s Sarah Kaya got the loss despite giving up only six hits in 10 innings, while striking out 18.
Winning pitcher Kailey Minarchick also was sharp, giving up seven hits, no earned runs and striking out 13. She also didn’t walk a batter in 10 innings.
“This was the first time this year I’ve gone extra innings,” Minarchick said. “But I wasn’t tired at all and I knew our defense would get the job done. My curve was my out pitch.”
Columbia coach Ken Lugo enjoyed the game, as expected.
“It was a fun game to watch, a real fun win,” he said. “The girls pulled it out because we got the key hits when needed. In some ways it was tough because I had to shuffle the lineup around with three girls at school with other activities.”
He also let Sullivan know she might just have to wear that catching gear again before the season’s over.
“We’ll use her again if we need her,” he said, making sure she heard him.
The Raiders, who played their first extra-inning game of the year, have only lost to out-of-area Division I teams so far.
“Columbia’s always tough so we knew coming in it was a major challenge,” Clearview coach Denny Myers said. “Our girls never gave up. I told them before the game, our first extra innings, that the little things out there are what brings a win. For the most part we did the little things.”
Contact Jerry Rombach at 329-7135 or email@example.com.