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Nicely pitches a gem, but cant pick up win
ARLINGTON One sliding catch made all the difference for the Monroe Bearcats in their 2-1 victory over the Arlington Eagles.
The May 4 contest between the teams was well pitched, well played all-around and went into extra innings to be decided, but yet again Arlington failed to capitalize on their chances and fell to the visitors.
The Eagles started strong as the bottom of the first inning saw Sheena Twitchell hit a huge triple to drive in Kate Nicely from first base.
Nicely also excelled on the mound, cruising through the first two innings.
The turning point in the game came in the bottom half of the second inning. After a leadoff strikeout by Ally Milless, Kaitlyn McAlister reached on a throwing error by Monroes third baseman. The next batter, Andrea Summers, fouled off eight pitches before roping a double into the right-centerfield gap. McAlister raced to third base. With runners on second and third and only one out, it was a good opportunity for Arlington to extend their lead.
The next batter, Stephanie McDowell, also fouled off a number of pitches during her at-bat. Unfortunately, unlike Summers, she could not find the right timing and eventually struck out swinging.
In stepped Vanessa Taylor to the batters box. Taylor dug in and fought off a couple tricky off-speed pitches before driving a sinking shot into left field. The Monroe left fielder raced in on the play and dove full-out to save the runs. Anxious fans eagerly awaited ruling whether or not she had caught the ball or merely trapped it, but the field umpire ruled it a catch, saving two runs and ending the Eagles threat.
Monroe built off that momentum in the top half of the third inning. After a leadoff double and sacrifice bunt, they had a runner on third with only one out. The next batter chopped a pitch on the ground toward first base where Kaitlyn McAlister made a fine defensive play. McAlister snared the ball midway between home and first and instead of racing to the bag or tossing the ball to a covering second baseman over at first base, she tagged the Bearcat runner out along the basepath and kept a watchful eye on the runner on third.
It could have easily kept Arlington in the lead, but the next Monroe batter doubled to score the run anyway. With the game knotted at 1-1, Nicely retired the next Bearcat on a pop-up and ended the inning.
Things stayed square for a long time as both pitchers found their groove. After seven innings nobody could break the deadlock and the game headed toward extra frames.
In the top half of the eighth, Nicely began to tire a little. She conceded a double and two singles as Monroe took a 2-1 lead. Christina Rayner came in to stem the tide, and she quickly retired two Bearcat hitters to end the inning.
In the bottom half of the eighth inning, Arlington fought back. Nicely singled with two outs and then stole second base. At the plate, Sheena Twitchell battled through a tough at-bat, before striking out swinging to end the game. It was another close loss for the Eagles.