BEMUS POINT - Just a day prior, the Maple Grove Lady Red Dragons had seen a late-game comeback attempt cut short and, worst of all, it had noting to do with anything the opposing squad had done. No, their chances of pulling out a last-minute victory were ended prematurely because of stormy weather.
So when the high-rising cumulonimbus clouds started to roll in off Chautauqua Lake - again, and the Lady Red Dragons were trailing, 3-2, heading into their half of the sixth inning, they weren't about to let history repeat itself.
"It was a totally similar situation (to Wednesday)," Maple Grove coach Mary Bartkowski said, "and that game came down to rain and lightning and hail, which was very difficult. The same thing could have happened today, but the girls were determined. "
Above, Maple Grove Lauren Nickerson dives safely into second after being caught in a rundown in Thursday’s Division 3 softball game against Chautauqua Lake. Below, Maple Grove’s Mackenzie Ellis delivers a pitch. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Rob Tucker
With two on and two out in the sixth, Maple Grove's Jordan Ahlstrom, who to that point had gone 0 for 3 with a pair of strikeouts, slapped a base hit to score pinch-hitter Holly Lehman, who had reached on a fielder's choice, and Alexis Stenstrom, who had doubled, to drive in the go-ahead runs. Ahlstrom would eventually come around to plate the final Maple Grove run of the game after singles by Lauren Nickerson and Taylor Satalino to give the Lady Red Dragons a Division 3 victory in just the nick of time, 6-4, over Chautauqua Lake.
Thanks to the win, Maple Grove improved to 6-2 overall and 3-2 in league. Chautauqua Lake dropped to 6-3 overall and 3-2 in league.
"Ahlstrom came through for us today," Bartkowski said. "She has struggled a bit this season, but she is such an athlete that it was time for that (big hit) to happen. She's got that fire in her and hates to lose, so I went up to her (before the at-bat) and said, 'You're an athlete, and I know you can do it.'
"And she did it."
Along with Ahlstrom, Nickerson went 4 for 4 with a double and a run scored.
With the lead in hand, Maple Grove starting pitcher Mackenzie Ellis took to the circle in the final frame and, despite allowing a triple to Chautauqua Lake's Kris Merritt, forced three groundouts to seal the come-from-behind victory.
Ellis, pitching to contact and taking advantage of a solid defense behind her, earned the victory with one walk and one strikeout.
"Our defense was superb," Bartkowski said of the group that committed just one error.
After allowing a first-inning score, Maple Grove quickly regained the lead by putting runs on the board in the first, second and third innings to take a 3-1 advantage.
It was in the fifth that the Lady Thunderbirds finally had some success against Ellis.
Jessie Herrington started things off with a one-out double - four of the eight Lady Thunderbird hits went for extra bases - and then scored after Hannah Rauh dropped down a sacrifice bunt. Following Rauh was Merritt, who drilled a single to right, and Ashley Moulton, who hit a double. With those two on, Lauren Cummings hit a sharp grounder that scooted past Maple Grove second baseman Ahlstrom to give Chautauqua Lake the short-lived lead.
Merritt led Chautauqua Lake with three hits, including a double and a triple, and Moulton had a pair of hits as well.
For Chautauqua Lake coach Sue Teets, the fifth-inning scoring was too little, too late.
''We've been waiting until the fourth or fifth inning before we start tagging the ball and working the count," she said. "That's our problem right now, we just can't be that slow to get going."
Merritt took the loss after allowing 11 hits and six runs with three walks and seven strikeouts.
Both Chautauqua Lake and Maple Grove will be on the diamond once again today, with Chautauqua Lake finishing up a rain-shortened game at Westfield and Maple Grove hosting Division 3 leader Forestville at 4:30 p.m.