The two word headline practically sums up the Lady Mustangs short week that featured just one game at home against the Myrtle Lady Hawks.
After starting the season (4-3-2), Mantachie’s fastpitch team ignited, winning 13 of their next 14 contests, outscoring opponents 158 runs to just 13 in the stretch. The lone hiccup had been in a narrow 3-1 loss to highly-touted Tipton Rosemark Academy (TN).
Even all-important division play had little-to-no affect on the blistering surge of the Lady Mustangs, going a perfect 10-0 in those games and ensuring that the road to the state championship, for northern teams, would be running through Mantachie.
Tuesday’s matchup was one of Daily Journal Top-10 teams, as Myrtle sat at No. 10 while Mantachie hovered slightly higher at No. 7. Two of the state’s top pitchers, Caylie Streich and Ramsey Montgomery, faced off in a rematch after the Lady Hawks narrowly edged the Lady Mustangs 4-3 early in the season, with three of the runs coming unearned.
The first time these two teams met was anything but a slugfest, and the sequel saw hits become even more of a scarcity. The teams drew even at the plate, each going 3-for-24.
Though Montgomery bested Streich in the strikeout department (12 to 11), the lone run came in the top of the sixth inning after Myrtle’s Kinsley Gordon was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, stole second, and then scored on the very next pitch after a bizarre dropped third strike play.
Lady Hawks’ Kinzie Waits struck out on a curveball from Montgomery that came in low but was stopped on a good block from Lynsey Barber who immediately rifled the ball to first to secure the out; meanwhile Gordon advanced immediately to third on the drop and broke home on Barber’s throw.
The relay throw by Gillean appeared to arrive in time, with a swipe tag across the back by Barber, but the home plate umpire signaled Gordon’s safety, breaking the stalemate.
Retaliation brewed in the bottom of the sixth for the Lady Mustangs following a leadoff double to the left-centerfield gap by Barber, who advanced to third after a line drive by Gillean that ricocheted off Streich in the circle, only to be fielded by the second baseman, whose throw narrowly beat Gillean at first.
A strike out cut Mantachie’s chances of scoring Barber drastically but there was still a chance with Lillianna Cates, one of the three Lady 'Stangs able to pick up a hit that night, digging in with two outs in a pressure-cooked situation.
Cates connected with one of the hardest hit balls of the night, but despite just getting tattooed by Gillean’s liner, Streich reacted with zeal, stabbing Cates screamer to end the threat, thwarting Mantachie’s best chance to even the tally.
It was not the pretty little bow to end the regular season that the Lady Mustangs wanted as they exited the dugout disappointed, but it could be something of a blessing moving into the postseason.
The 1985 Chicago Bears are regarded as one of the most dominant teams in NFL in history, cruising to one of the most lopsided Super Bowl victories of all-time, with an almost* perfect résumé. The lone blemish for a team football fans now consider a superpower was a late-season loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Not only did the ’85 Bears not lose the rest of the season, they never trailed for a single minute the whole ride to the Lombardi trophy, and after winning it several Chicago players cited the week 13 loss as the wake-up call the team needed to get refocused and energized for the playoffs.
Who’s to say the Lady Mustangs are not in a similar situation? They experienced one real test in almost six weeks of scheduling. Winning became second nature, and they flipped on the autopilot after downing East Union in division play. It happens to the best of them. Ask “Da’ Bears.”
Now after the 1-0 loss to an extremely good Myrtle team, they can dial back in and start another tear through the north state playoffs, that began with Eupora on Monday and Tuesday.