---- — By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
DANVILLE -- With a four-run lead in hand, Milton pitcher Taylor Batman stood inside the circle as Danville runners surrounded her on the bases in the bottom of the sixth inning. A single, an error and a walk filled them with one out, and the Lady Ironmen were determined to swing some momentum.
The pressure of the situation would stress out some pitchers, but Batman simply did what she's used to doing.
The junior struck out consecutive batters to get the Black Panthers out of the inning by stranding three runners, and Milton increased its lead for a 7-1 HAC-I win Tuesday.
"It was very stressful but I knew I had a good defense and I knew they'd be behind me backing me up," Batman said of the bases-loaded jam.
Milton (8-1, 8-1 HAC-I) also got out of a bases-loaded spot in the fourth inning. Lesley Fritz hit a grounder to third baseman Mary Adams, who tagged the runner and also got the force at third for a quick double play. A walk loaded the bases again before a groundout to second ended the inning.
"Milton's a tough team. They're going to keep battling you and they did all the things you need to do to win a game," Danville coach Dwayne Heeter said. "They made the plays, timely hits, timely defense, and we didn't."
Milton's Dani Lincoln came through with an RBI-double to the fence in left that allowed Mackenna Miller to break a scoreless tie in the top of the fifth.
The Black Panthers offense then came alive in the final two innings. Linea Brouse hit a shallow single before Bethany Brennan reached safely on an error. Katelyn Gensel hit a shot into left that was misplayed and drove in a run in before Batman came through with a clutch double to right field to knock in two more for a 4-0 lead.
Milton started the seventh inning with a double and single on back-to-back at-bats before Bayli Derr drove in a run with a fielder's choice. Batman then ripped an RBI-single three batters later to put Milton ahead 7-0.
"The first three, four innings, I told them the one time that I heard LifeFlight (and) I thought they were coming for their bats," Milton coach Bill Keefer joked. "We finally woke up and swung the bat pretty good the last four innings there."
Milton ended the game with 10 hits off Danville's Tara Fritz (six strikeouts), recording seven in the last three innings after being held to just three through the first four.
"Sometimes we get too long with our swings ... they start wrapping the bat around their head and they just get too long (of) a swing," Keefer said. "If we get them straightened out where they just get their hands to the ball, they have much quicker bats. Once we had a hit or two, they all started to do that and they always say hitting's contagious. We got a couple hits and then everybody's bats picked up."
The Lady Ironmen (7-5, 5-4) averted the shutout in the bottom of the seventh. After Zina Knight reached with an infield single, Alyssa Shaw hit a one into shallow left field that allowed her to reach and bring home Knight on an error. Danville ended the game by grounding into a 1-3-2 double play.
"We knew we had to score runs because they got some very good hitters. I thought we could get more than one run, but I was wrong," Heeter said laughing. "We had opportunities, but it's the basics. It's fast-pitch softball."
Batman went the distance for Milton and recorded just three strikeouts, but her pitching resulted in 14 outs via infield groundouts or pop-ups. All of Danville's hits were singles, only two of which made it into the outfield.
"She's gone several years now where she hasn't gotten a chance to pitch with Kristi (Weaver) around. It's just a matter of her getting some confidence and then being consistent," Keefer said. "She would throw one really good pitch, then the next two or three, you had no idea where they were going. Now she's getting to where she has a little bit more of a clue what she's doing and she's getting a little more consistent."