OXFORD – Lexi Kinnaird pictured her final home start plenty of times over the last few weeks.
All those times, the Clear Creek Amana senior pitcher never imagined an ending like the one she got on Thursday.
Right fielder Megan Beckler threw out two runners at the plate in the seventh inning as Clear Creek Amana (20-15) held on for a 1-0 win over Class 3A seventh-ranked Center Point-Urbana in the first game of a WAMAC senior night doubleheader in Oxford.
Center Point-Urbana (26-13) salvaged a split with an 11-4 win in the nightcap.
“I never imagined an ending like that, it was definitely an exciting way to end it,” Kinnaird said. “My defense was phenomenal that game, they were phenomenal. I can’t speak highly enough of them.”
Beckler’s defensive heroics made a winner out of Kinnaird in her final game in the circle in Oxford.
PREVIOUSLY: Time and work paying dividends for Lexi Kinnaird
The junior right fielder threw out Claire Holtz, who was trying to score from third on a tag-up after a Megan Croghan fly-ball out, for the game’s final out to preserve Kinnaird’s shutout.
Kinnaird struck out nine and didn’t walk a batter, giving up five hits, in a performance that improved her season record to 12-5 and lowered her ERA to 1.30.
“I wanted the ball hit to me because it was the perfect opportunity to make a great play,” Beckler said. “I really wanted it and I got what I asked for.”
Kinnaird took a perfect game into the fourth inning, retiring 11 straight to open the game before Maddie Karr’s two-out single.
The senior right-hander struck out the side in the third and fanned seven of the first nine batters that she faced.
“There was a lot of adrenaline rushing through me,” Kinnaird said. “I knew they were good hitters so I just wanted to come out and throw the best that I could and my defense definitely backed me up.”
Clear Creek Amana got all the offense Kinnaird would require in the fifth.
Senior Lauren Stopko singled with two outs and scored on a Grace Murray double down the left field line.
“It was an exciting game and the timing is perfect because that is the kind of game that you need right now to get ready for the postseason,” Clear Creek Amana coach Barb Lynn said. “There were lots of pressure situations, offensively and defensively, and we had kids come through.”
After retiring Center Point-Urbana in order in the fifth, Kinnaird worked around a leadoff single by Samantha Croghan in the sixth to preserve the 1-0 lead.
Kinnaird then wiggled out of the seventh-inning jam thanks to Beckler.
Karr led off the inning with a double and Holtz followed with a single.
Taylor Henderson then lined a single to right but Beckler’s throw to Murray was in time to cut down Karr at the plate for the first out.
Two batters later, Megan Croghan lifted a fly ball to right.
Beckler made the catch for out No. 2 and fired a strike to the plate to catch Holtz trying to tag up from third for the final out.
“I’ve been practicing that a lot and I’ve been really eager to get some balls hit to me,” Beckler said. “It was just a perfect opportunity and I really wanted to take advantage of it.”
Center Point-Urbana hit three home runs, including a pair of two-run shots by Meghan Croghan in the 11-4 win in Game 2.
Skylar Hop and Stopko each had two hits and scored a run in Game 2 while Murray was 2-for-4 with two RBI.
“It’s tough that we didn’t get the sweep but I think we played well tonight and we definitely took a big step forward for the postseason,” Kinnaird said. “It was a good way for the seniors to end it.”
Reach Ryan Murken at 319-339-7369 or email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @rmmurken.
Center Point-Urbana…000 000 0—0 5 2
Clear Creek Amana…000 010 x—1 8 1
W— Lexi Kinnaird L—Samantha Croghan
2B—Maddie Karr (CPU); Grace Murray, Lexi Kinnaird (CCA).
Center Point-Urbana 000 620 3—11 13 2
Clear Creek Amana 000 300 1—4 9 3
W—Baily Smith. L—Megan Beckler
2B—Claire Holtz (CPU).
HR—Elizabeth Hearn, Megan Croghan 2 (CPU).