The Lady Comets are hot on the trail of the conference title. They're vying for it with the West Central Knights and Brandon-Evansville Chargers on their heels. Friday's double-header in Barrett offered the Comets a chance to jump into a formidable lead.
The first game had the Comets shaking their head. The Comet bats were quiet. First baseman Jordan Matranga had the only hit of the game for Hillcrest. Dekok pitched well and did not give up an earned run, but some key fielding and mental errors allowed four runs to score. "The Knights came ready to play and they are very good at making contact at the plate", commented Coach Craig Nersten. He added, "They are well coached and very disciplined all the way around".
A 4-0 shutout in game one placed Hillcrest on their heels looking at a road that could give the Knights the conference if the Lady Comets lost the next game, and the Comets only had fifteen minutes to regroup.
The Lady Comets jumped from their huddle and gripped the fence in the dugout as the lineup card was placed a board by the bats. Dust lingered in the air as catcher Ruthanne Erickson clipped her pads on, ready to start a new game and write a new story for Hillcrest to go home to.
The Knights jumping out to an early 7-1 lead after DeKok opened the game with a strike. As the Comets walked off the field they dug their heels in, stepping into the batters box refusing to go down looking. Scoring multiple runs in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th innings, the Comets cut their deficit to three runs, 9-12, before grabbing their bats in the bottom of the 6th inning. Center Fielder Anna Newman scored on a base hit by shortstop Hanna Lavin, cutting the Knight's lead to 2 runs. The Lady Comets picked up another run in the sixth, making it a one run game going into the seventh and final inning.
Dekok pitched a 1,2,3 seventh inning, opening the Comets final chance as the home team. Right fielder Juliana Undseth lead off with a sharp grounder up the middle. Matranga singled, giving the Comets runners at first and second with no outs. DeKok came to the plate having tipped balls over the fence 3 times in the past five games. Gripping the bat, she narrowed her stance and cut her strike zone in half. The pitch to DeKok would have to be good to be a called strike.
Eyeing the first few pitches, DeKok found her step in time with the Knights' delivery. She'd been studying the ball movement and pitcher's stance all game long. When the ball left the pitcher's hand DeKok took a definitive step and drove a long ball over the left fielder's head, clearing the bases giving Hillcrest their first walkoff victory of the season. The Lady Comets are still in the hunt for the conference with their 13-12 victory, splitting the double-header with the Knights.
"Anna Newman was fantastic today. She was really focused at the plate and she came up big. I was also impressed again with Nicole DeKok. She really composed herself at the plate and on the mound. I'm hoping this second game can be the trigger we need to kick it up a notch as we approach the playoffs. I was proud of the girls and happy to see the fight in them", said Nersten
Game two offensive leaders for the Comets were: Matranga (3-4, 1 3B, 3 runs, 2 RBIs), DeKok (2-3, 2 3B, 3 RBIs), Newman (2-4, 4 runs, 2 RBIs).
The Comets travel to a second conference sensitive double-header Monday in Brandon, before playing Hancock on Thursday, and gearing up for another double-header Friday against CGB.