Panthers beat Tigers under weird circumstances

Hibriten knocked off previously unbeaten Fred T. Foard on Friday in one of the most unusual softball games.

The game featured a no-hitter through four innings, two key injuries to the Lady Tigers (8-1, 3-1) and a nine-run seventh inning for Hibriten (6-4, 2-2).

“We are big on staying composed, handling pressure and having a plan because we have to handle things like this on the spur of the moment,” said Lady Tigers coach Jennifer Cook. “We had a whole array of things happen tonight. We had sick kids, hurt kids that couldn’t fill roles they normally fill and we had a plan. We had to use every part of that plan. To take a beating like that, but to still be cheering, battling and working hard, that is what we take out of this.”

Lady Tigers’ pitcher Lexi Shubert started out strong in Friday’s game. She had 10 strikeouts and a no-hitter through four innings. She also hit her first home run for Foard in the bottom of the first to give her team a 2-0 lead.

It went downhill from there. Shubert surrendered her first hit of the game in the top of the fifth, as Hibriten’s Julia Edwards reached on an error by Foard third basemen Ashley Oliver. That tied the game 2-2.

Foard battled back in the bottom of the fifth inning and scored three runs to retake the lead. Oliver singled between first and second base to score Emily Crouse from second.

The next play dramatically changed the outcome and momentum of the game.
Shubert hit a ball down the third base line, but was safe due to a throwing error at first. As she reached first base, Shubert collided with the first basemen, rolled her ankle and fell in pain. She left the game with an injury.

“You don’t do anything different in that situation,” Cook said. “You don’t tell Lexi not to run hard to first base because she is the pitcher. It was just a freak incident.”

The Tigers carried on with Shubert on the bench and scored two more runs before the inning was over. Oliver scored on a passed ball, and Taylor Bollinger, Shubert’s courtesy runner, scored on an error.

Stepping in Shubert’s place on the mound was freshman Kolleen Spears, which was the first game for the young pitcher. Her youth and inexperience showed quickly, as she allowed base runners in the form of walks.

Spears allowed four runs in the top of the sixth inning, which gave the Lady Panthers the lead for the first time, 6-5.

“We take the positive away that we weathered the worst storm that hopefully we will ever have to weather,” Cook said. “We did it with positive attitudes and as hard as we could play. We did it putting kids in positions that weren’t ideal. We didn’t want to put Colleen Spears in that situation. For her team to back her up and support her says a lot.”

Also in the inning, another injury occurred, as shortstop Savannah Burns left with an ankle injury after hustling for a ball near the foul line in left field. Just like Shubert, Burns left the game with an injury.

“Lexi and Savannah should both be fine,” Cook said. “We don’t think anything is going to be hurt long term. We are looking at one, if not both of them, back by Tuesday.”

Despite being down, Foard continued to play hard. They tied the game again in the bottom of the sixth inning. Kendall Settlemyre reached base on a single with two outs and stole two bases to reach third. She later scored on a dropped third strike against Oliver, which tied the game 6-6 heading into the final inning.

Hibriten continued to capitalize on Spears’ lack of playing experience in the top of the seventh. The young pitcher continued to walk batters, and the Lady Tigers were unable to garner any outs. The Lady Panthers scored nine runs in the inning to put the game out of reach for good.

Shubert led Foard with two RBIs at the plate, and Oliver had one RBI.
Leading Hibriten were Edwards and Caisey Anderson, who each had two RBIs. Bailey Land and Emma Tuttle had one RBI each.

Shubert finished with five innings pitched and 10 strikeouts. Hibriten pitcher Kristen Oakes had five strikeouts and three walks in seven innings on the mound.

Cook said her team will look past this loss and take away the positives.

“Our goal is to be able to use this at the end of the season,” Cook said. “We are still in March and this is just a loss. We have weathered the worst storm we can ever imagine. We start from there, and I’m proud of the composure and how we handled the pressure.”