When the dust settled at Hannah Park Tuesday night the Comets were huddling underneath a sky that was shouting in colors to a Comet come from behind victory. The win moved Hillcrest to the second round of playoffs despite entering the final frames in an 8-8 tie.
The Comets leapt to an early lead thanks to Senior Megan Aasness' dominant work on the base path. Aasness led the Comets in the first with a good eye, earning a free trip to first base where she bounced in anticipation of the next pitch. Aasness took off and rounded second and moved to third on subsequent pitches. Annie Murphy stepped in the batters box, looking forward to cleaning the bases. She is doing that a lot this season.
A base hit by Murphy allowed Aasness to score, putting the Comets up 1-0 with the grounder. It was a simple lead that propelled Nicole DeKok through four innings. DeKok setup and knocked down 11 Trojans with her fastball that moved Ortonville to the back of the box. DeKok's shutout through four innings was kept intact largely because of her off-speed work that painted the corners. With the Trojans stepping closer to the catcher to gain a few extra feet to see DeKok's fastball come in, they swung a head of a number of DeKok's change-ups and curveballs.
With DeKok holding a solid reign on the mound, Hillcrest went to work in the bottom of the 4th. Faces pressed against the chainlink fence, the Comet ladies cheered teammates around the bases. Dust greyed the dugout where Hillcrest was busy clapping hands and high-fiving each other to a 2-0 lead. In grabbing their gloves to jog back to the field there was a sneer from the Trojan bench. They weren't ending their season in a shutout.
The Trojans set to work in the 5th propelled by a 3 run home run. When the Comets huddled in front of their dugout to lick their wounds they were down 6-2 with three more trips to the plate promised them.
Cheers again rose from the Comet bench. Their cries and chants earned the group a loaded bases at bat for clutch hitter Annie Murphy. Murphy gripped the bat a little tighter than she did in the first inning. The at bats are winding down for her in a Comet uniform. Her picky pitch selection led her to turn on wafting pitch that soared to the right center gap. Murphy was pulled around by the rest of her Comet teammates who she followed all the way to third base. Murphy fist bumped Head Coach Craig Nersten as his smile grew bigger realizing Murphy cleared the bases for the second time that evening. Hillcrest would take the field in the 6th with an 8-6 lead.
The Trojans answered in the six, capitalizing off some timing they did on Comet pitcher Nicole DeKok. When the Comet grabbed their bats in the 6th they were knotted up at 8 with the Trojans. Hillcrest was determined to extend their season by at least one more game as Jordan Matranga took her practice swings before the Trojans did their throw down to start the bottom of the 6th.
Matranga saw something in Ortonville's pitcher. Maybe it was a tired release or a sloping shoulder that caused Jordan to watch four balls miss the strike zone. Her good eye gave her free passage to first base. Matranga took off during the next at bat, making it easily to second base. A passed ball moved her to third base where coach Nersten was plotting his game winning move. During the next at bat Megan Aasness followed Matranga's lead and watched a series of pitches miss the zone.
As Aasness started to first base she saw her dad, first base coach Pete Aasness, give her a sign. She picked up her pace and darted around first base to second. The Trojan pitcher, thinking through her lead-off walks, was kicking dirt before she realized Aasness was making a break for second. Instinctively, the pitcher went for Aasness, forgetting about Matranga at third base, who was eyeing the commitment of the pitcher to Aasness. When the ball left the pitcher's hand Matranga darted for home, completing the double-steal that moved Hillcrest to a 9-8 lead and propelled the Comets to the second round of playoffs.
Annie Murphy contributed 4 RBIs to Hillcrest's 9 run total. The Comets received a bolster of supportive hitting from Tara Ferenczy, Sophie Iverson, and Emma Royce who all had 2 hits on the night. Aasness continued her thievery on the base path, tagging 2 more steals to her record breaking season where he has tallied 50 total stolen bases. Aasness' career total is 107.
Hillcrest plays Minnewaska on Thursday as they enter the second round of playoffs.