With a division title up for grabs and facing the crosstown rivals Friday, Middletown North coach Mallory Kirchner turned to her senior pitcher for the big game.
“I was happy to get the ball for this game,” said Audrie Thomas, who gave up two of three hits in the first inning and walked one to help the Lions edge Middletown South, 2-1. “In the first game against South, I didn’t get the ball but this time I did and I wanted to make it count.”
And with the game tied at 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth, Christine Gebhardt took advantage of a pitch on the outer half of the plate and made her leadoff at-bat count by sending the ball over the left-center fence for the game-winner.
“You’re always in for a good game when you’re playing South,” Gebhardt said. “It was a rush to hit that ball over the fence there. We didn’t play our best last time and we worked hard for this. It was nice to come through in a big spot for my team.”
Gebhardt had a hand in the Lions’ first run as well.
After Hannah Milano singled to left field and scored on a double to right-center off the bat of Ally Massa to give the Eagles (10-7, 8-4) a 1-0 lead in the first, South held the one-run margin into the bottom of the fourth, before Gebhardt lined a ball into center to lead off the at-bat.
Quinn Thornton then dropped a sacrifice bunt to send Gebhardt to second base, and she advanced to third on a wild pitch. Gebhardt scored on a groundout to second off the bat of Riley Kernan, tying the game at 1-1.
After Gebhardt provided the second run, the Lions (12-6, 9-3) put runners on second and third with two outs, but South pitcher Tiffani Lambert, who beat North in their first meeting several weeks ago, got Thomas to pop up to end the inning.
South then threatened in the top of the seventh when an error allowed Lambert to reach second with two outs and Alex Corrigan coming up. Corrigan then hit a line drive to center but center fielder Kate Quinn made a sliding basket catch from her knees to secure the victory.
“As a team, we put everything together to get this win,” Thomas said. “I was a little nervous in that last inning. I would have liked to have the extra run, but I believe in my team and I knew they’d come through in the end.”
The victory put the Lions into first place in Class A North with a Monday contest between Marlboro and Howell deciding whether they win the crown outright or share it with the Rebels, who were idle on Friday and started the day in a three-way tie for first with North and South.