NORTH EASTON, Mass. – In the bottom of the fourth inning, Oliver Ames senior first baseman Jamie Gottwald stood at the plate with two outs and two runners in scoring position with the Tigers trailing by two. Foxboro freshman Emma Rohan caught Gottwald looking with a nasty pitch on the inside corner to end the jam.
When Gottwald came up in the sixth with two outs and two runners on and the Warriors still out in front 4-2, OA coach Lindsey Allison expected the outcome to be very different.
“She’s just a kid that steps up,” said Allison. “I kind of had a feeling, two outs, runners on, and she’s a contagious hitter and an under pressure hitter.”
Gottwald came through, driving a pitch well over the leftfield fence for a three-run, go-ahead homer. Freshman Kayla Georgeu made it stand up with a perfect seventh and OA pulled out a 5-4 victory in a game that Allison described as a “must-win.”
“I’m not sure we were ready for what Foxboro was bringing today,” said Allison about one of OA’s top challengers for second place in the Davenport division. “Past history, we’ve always won against Foxboro and they had some really great hitters, pitcher pitched a great game. Fortunately, we were able to shut the door.”
Foxboro loaded the bases in the first inning against OA starter Alexis Campbell, but a grounder to Rachel Han cut down the lead runner at the plate and Katie Pursley turned it into a double play with a quick relay to first. Campbell escaped the jam by getting Ryann McGowan to bounce to third.
The Tigers jumped out to a lead in the bottom half of the inning. Campbell walked with one out and Victoria Ziner, who missed almost all of last spring with an illness, lined a hit to left. Gottwald and Pursley followed with hard-hit line drives that skipped off gloves in the infield and brought in a pair of runs for a 2-0 advantage.
The lead was short-lived, as Foxboro put up a four-spot in the second. Chelsea Gibbons led-off with a single and moved to second on a groundout. Camryn Willis singled to put runners at the corners and Kelli McCarthy had a bunt single that loaded the bases.
After a fly ball to center for the second out, Foxboro catcher Hannah Davis drove over the head of centerfielder Missy Krim for a double that brought in two, while confusion in the infield on a rundown allowed McCarthy to score as well. Kelly Fisher followed with the first of her two hits to plate Davis and make it 4-2.
In the third, Allison turned to Georgeu. The freshman struggled at first, walking three of the first four batters she faced to load the bases, but came back to strike out McCarthy for the second out and then got a foul pop to Gottwald at first to end the threat.
“I kind of went out and said to her, where’s my confident little freshman?” Allison explained. “Just take a deep breath, walk around, talk to your people and…throw a strike. She throws one in and then I think she struck a girl out right after that and she looks at me and gives me a ‘finger gun’ and I was like, oh there you are.”
The Warriors also had a pair of runners on in the fourth inning, but Davis was caught stealing on a great catch and tag by Ziner and Georgeu managed to work her way out of the jam.
“It’s just timely hitting and we just didn’t get it today,” said Foxboro coach Mark Maguire, “and the girl from OA hit a nice shot there. I don’t think it was a game that we gave back; they made some plays too.”
Meanwhile OA continued to get base runners against Rohan, but the Foxboro freshman seemed to come through with the big pitch when she needed and the Warriors made plays behind her, including Davis catching Pursely leaning at third for an important first out in the bottom of the fifth.
“She’s been like that all year long,” said Maguire of Rohan’s ability to keep battling. “She’s a freshman and she’s still learning. She’s fighting every inning.”
In the sixth, Rohan was one strike from getting through the inning clean, but Campbell worked a two-out walk and Ziner followed with a slap single to left, which set the table for Gottwald’s heroics.
Georgeu had settled down after a shaky start to her relief outing and in the seventh she got some help from her defense. Marylou Long led-off with a deep drive to center that Krim tracked all the way and snagged just before falling into the fence. McGowan grounded to third and Han’s throw was high but Gottwald managed to leap and snare it and then come down on the bag for the second out.
Georgeu then got a pop up to retire her 10th straight hitter and seal the win.
Maguire said, “I don’t know if our girls got a little too anxious at the plate but instead of just driving the ball through the infield, maybe they wanted to go long ball and maybe should have dialed back their swings a little.”
Allison knows that her team needs to cash in with runners on base, but she credited the Tigers for making plays to pick each other up and working as a team to get the win.
She said, “Jamie launches herself out and makes the catch [in the seventh]. Maybe Kayla left it hanging over the plate, but Missy Krim picks her up in the outfield. They play well as a team.”
Oliver Ames (5-4, 4-3) will travel to Mansfield on Monday, while Foxboro (4-5, 3-4) will be on the road at North Attleboro.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.