GALENA, Ill. — It’s not the way any coach would draw it up, but talk about a confidence booster.
Southwestern built a commanding 10-0 lead in the third inning Saturday, only to have Galena come all the way back from the depths of defeat to steal a 16-15 victory at Weinen Park.
“I didn’t like spotting them 10 runs, but this is huge,” Galena coach Dusty Berning said. “This will show our girls from here on out if we are down one run, 10 runs, or whatever, that we can come back and win.”
It looked early like the game may not even go the distance and that Galena might fall victim to the mercy rule.
Southwestern jumped ahead in the first with a run and plated three more in the second behind a triple from Alana Splinter and singles from Avery Ehrlich, Laynee Runde and Hannah Brant.
In the third, the Wildcats looked poised to put this one away. They capitalized on three Galena errors, two walks and a hit batsman. Bailey Schneider delivered a big three-run double to left field, and just like that, Southwestern was ahead, 10-0.
“We saw many good things early on,” Southwestern coach Jeni Freiburger said. “We have a lot of work to do. We have a very young team and still trying to find our leadership, but overall, by the end of the year I think we will be playing some pretty good ball.”
The bottom of the third saw the Pirates begin to climb their way back. Claire Kruse laced a one-out liner to left that couldn’t be handled and leadoff hitter Kiera Lyden followed that with an inside-the-park home run over the center fielder’s head.
At the time, Lyden’s homer seemed to be nothing more than a feather in her cap with her team still down, 10-2, but she would strike again.
After Southwestern went scoreless in the fourth, Galena’s first two hitters reached on walks in the bottom half. Claire Martensen, who went 3-for-4 on the day, roped an RBI single and Claire Kruse delivered a two-run base-hit, setting the stage for Lyden.
The junior this time split the right-center gap and touched every base for her second two-run, inside-the-park round tripper of the game. The Pirates tacked on three more after a Taylor Hilby triple to tie the score at 10.
“I’m glad I hit them,” Lyden said. “In the beginning I struck out once, so I came back and didn’t miss it.”
The resilient Wildcats took the lead right back in the fifth with three runs behind RBI singles from Ehrlich and Brant, but Galena scored two in the bottom half. At the end of five innings, Southwestern led, 13-12.
Gracie Redfearn delivered an RBI single and later scored on a wild pitch to extend the Wildcats’ lead to three, but it wouldn’t be enough to hold off the pesky Pirates.
Olivia Hefel reached on an error, Martensen singled and Corrina Noble drew a walk to load the bases for Galena. Gwen Hesselbacher’s base-hit scored two to cut the deficit to 15-14. After an intentional walk to Lyden, Hilby tied the game with a run-scoring single and the go-ahead run crossed on a wild pitch.
“I knew we could hit,” Berning said. “The first inning I kind of expected that having not swung a bat in almost two years. We made some errors that hurt us, but ultimately, we came back and won. This is a huge win to get us ready for East Dubuque on Tuesday.”
Added Lyden, who finished the game 3-for-4: “This first game, it’s what we needed for the rest of the season.”