ORCHARD CITY – Taking perhaps the most important cut this fall to date, Montezuma-Cortez’s Arianna Muniz denied Cedaredge a two-game sweep Saturday and prevented a fourth straight 3A Western Slope League loss for the Panthers.
On a fundamentally flawed play the previous inning that must have left the Lady Bruins boiling inside, Bri Comisky managed to slide under Cedaredge shortstop Jazmyn Ince’s throw to catcher Jamie Meyer, unexpectedly scoring a go-ahead run from third base on Lizzie Likes’ two-out fielder’s-choice grounder.
“I wasn’t expecting them to throw it, and I saw her glove out — so I slid,” said Comisky, surprised Ince hadn’t simply flipped the ball to second and force-out Allie Kibel or conventionally retire Likes at first.
Protecting a 4-3 advantage, Lady Panther ace Taiah Wilson logged a 1-2-3 inning through stunned Cedaredge’s 4-5-6 batters in the top of the sixth, and M-CHS then took full advantage of their momentum.
Cedaredge head coach Lonny Stroud replaced starter Candace Siebler with McKayla Meyer, who gave up walks to Rylee Hickman, Wilson and Hailey Veach. Koral Jackson then tapped a ball through the pitching circle, and Meyer was unable to retire anybody else.
Comisky then struck out looking, but Erin Brown worked a bases-loaded walk to plate Wilson. Stroud had seen enough and re-inserted Siebler, with the hope of a double play off Muniz to avoid facing Kibel and the top of Anthony ‘Hippo’ Frost’s lineup.
But Muniz quickly ripped a hit past into left field, driving in Veach. Frost waved Jackson around third, and after Lady Bruin Taneal Mautz missed a bad hop over her head, Brown scored from first and Muniz scooted into second.
“I didn’t see it,” Muniz said, of the big bounce. “Just…seeing (the ball) was way out there, I was like, ‘OK, I’ll go!’”
“I’ve always been, like, a first-strike hitter, apparently,” said Muniz, who bats at the bottom of the lineup in ninth. “I wasn’t ready the first couple of innings,” she said, referring to two strikeouts. “Then all of a sudden it was finally there where I wanted it, and I just got it!”
Two batters later, Muniz scored the Panthers’ 10th run on a Likes infield single, and M-CHS (8-3, 5-3 WSL), would go into the final frame up 12-3.
“Yeah, it took us a little bit of time to, like, ‘time’ them out correctly. But we got ’em; we all picked it up and got our hits in,” said Wilson, who secured a complete-game win at Orchard City Park’s Field of Dreams complex.
“I wasn’t that tired; my arm wasn’t hurting,” said Wilson, who’d took a loss in the doubleheader’s 15-14 opener despite retiring 18 of the last 21 Lady Bruins she faced. “I was pretty confident, knew where their zones were ... so that’s where I mostly focused on.”
Unofficially, Muniz finished 1-for-3 with a walk, run and three runs batted in, and Jackson went 1-5 with a run and three RBIs.
“We did get a little down in the first game,” Comisky said. “And then we picked ourselves back up; we were good for the second game. We started out with a positive attitude ... just excited to win.”
“We’ve just put in a lot of practice, a lot of work,” said Muniz. “After a while you learn what you’re doing wrong and then you can fix it yourself.”
In the earliest goings, it seemed Cedaredge (6-4, 4-3) had more. Designated the ‘home’ team for Game 1, the Lady Bruins bolted out to a 6-1 lead after one inning and went 8-1 through two before M-CHS dug in for battle, scoring four runs off Siebler in the third inning along with Hickman’s second-ever out-of-the-park homer.
Cedaredge failed to respond in the home half, and the Lady Panthers clawed out three tying runs (Comisky, Brown, Kibel) in the top of the fourth. Presented with a brand-new ballgame, Cedaredge reverted to its initial form and quickly broke the tie with four runs of their own.
Incredibly, Montezuma-Cortez matched pace in the fifth with two of their four runs coming via an error-causing Kibel drive which center fielder Kayla Davis couldn’t cleanly handle. But Cedaredge then composed three runs in the home half after Larissa Cotten led off with a double.
Hickman and Wilson (L; 6 IP, 15 R, 5 K) each singled and scored starting the M-CHS sixth inning, but after approaching to within just a run, Jackson was called out for leading off second base too early. Cedaredge was unable to inflict further damage in the home half, but were able to breathe a little easier after Kibel (4-5, 3 R), who’d singled to right and nabbed second on Brooke Claridge’s fielding error, was stranded at the hot corner.
Hickman finished 3-4, needing a triple for the cycle, and scored twice. Wilson went 3-4 with two runs, while Comisky and Brown each ended up 0-2 with two walks and as many runs. Getting the Game 1 start in right before giving way to Muniz for Game 2, Emily Davidovich went 1-4 with a run — the first during M-CHS’ crucial third-inning awakening.
“We’re good on defense, but it’s offense that we really need help on. But we’re improving as I see it,” said Wilson, addressing the Lady Panthers’ relative recovery from the previous weekend’s twin losses in Delta to Basalt, as well as a primary practice focal point leading up to M-CHS’ slated Sept. 21 trip to 4A Durango.
“I want to work on my batting,” Comisky concurred. “I did hit some, but I also missed quite a few too.”