ST. JOE - During the course of a 20-plus-game softball season, a team has to have a bit of luck at some point.
While Bellaire (12-1) has been cruising along night-after-night, it needed a late unearned run to sneak past visiting Bridgeport here Thursday night, 4-3, on the middle school diamond.
"That was ugly, but it's still a win," admitted Bellaire head coach Melissa Lahna. "We beat Caldwell 14-2 two nights, but I don't think we played well. Our loss (Monday to Harrison Central) kind of put us in a damper mood. Yesterday (Wednesday) we had a good practice, but not a solid practice and it showed today because that is how we played.
BELLAIRE THIRD baseman Elisha Gillespie readies herself to make a throw to first during action Thursday afternoon against Bridgeport. The Big Reds won, 4-3. Additional images can be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
"Even our warmup before the game wasn't sharp," she continued. "We got our fire back today and the ball bounced our way."
Indeed it did.
With the game deadlocked at three, Elisha Gillespie was hit-by-a-pitch leading the sixth went to second on Michelle Maffe's sacrifice bunt, but Bulldogs' ace Ashley Hadzima struck out the next batter for the second out. The count was 2-2 on Daphne Clark, the Big Reds' No. 9 hitter, when she swung at a pitch in the dirt that got away as she raced towards first.
The throw to the bag for what would have been the third out, skipped away as Gillespie hustled around to score what turned out to be the game-winning run.
"A lot of our losses have come that way," said Bridgeport (6-4) head coach Tom Joseph. "An untimely error here and there and we could be a lot better record-wise, but that's our season in a nutshell."
Bellaire took the early lead when Taylar Canter scored on a fielder's choice in the bottom of the second. She drew a leadoff walk, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch.
The hosts made it 2-0 an inning later as Dallas Messenger legged out one of her three bunt singles leading off. After she swiped second, winning pitcher Megan Ging helped her own cause when she blasted a double high off the fence in left-center that easily scored Messenger.
Bridgeport finally broke through against the hard-throwing Ging the second time through the order as it sent seven batters to the plate in a 3-run fourth.
Dustyne Cargnell bunted for a single leading off. Peyton Stewart's sacrifice bunt was thrown wild to first, giving the Bulldogs runners on first and third. Both crossed the plate when Caitlyn Kroll drilled a triple to the gap in right-center. She would touch home when Hadzima lifted a sacrifice fly to left, making it 3-2 Bridgeport.
Bellaire drew even in the fifth on Mackenzie Conroy's double to deep center. It chased home Ging who had doubled to left-center with one out. Mary Garloch, who had also singled, was nailed at the plate trying to score by Stewart.
The Bulldogs threatened in the top of the sixth with runners on first and second, but a bouncer to Canter at short turned into a force out at third to end the rally and set the stage for Bellaire's win.
"Give Bridgeport credit," Lahna noted. "Coach Joseph has done a tremendous job in his two years there."
Messenger and Ging accounted for six of Bellaire nine hits, as Ging also singled. Ging fanned seven and walked one in scattering five hits.
"I still don't think Megan has pitched her best yet," added Lahna, "but that's a good thing because we've got some tough games coming up."
Cargnell singled twice for Bridgeport. Hadzima struck out four and walked one. She yielded nine hits.
"Ashley pitched well again tonight," said Joseph. "We just seem to make that one error that really hurts us, but these girls are coming a long."
Bellaire makes the long trip to Caldwell today before hosting Oak Glen in a doubleheader Saturday.
Bridgeport 000 300 0 - 3 5 2
Bellaire 011 011 x - 4 9 1
Batteries: Hadzima and E. Nowakowski. Ging and Messenger
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