PAXTON -- The Paxton-Buckley-Loda softball team was one inning away from sweeping Dwight in a Sangamon Valley Conference doubleheader.
After winning 7-4 in game one, PBL had a 16-14 lead going into the bottom of the seventh inning of game two, but instead, Dwight walked off with an 18-16 victory.
"If you would have told me on the way to the field that we were going to split with Dwight today, I would have taken that in a heartbeat," PBL head coach Kelli Vaughn said.
The Panthers' game-one victory was their fifth consecutive SVC win -- and third consecutive victory in a span of two days after sweeping a doubleheader over Iroquois West the previous Friday -- and their seventh in nine games.
"These kids are playing with so much more confidence in the past month. It has just been really great to be around them. They've gone from being timid at the plate to just going up there and hitting the ball and putting it in play. I have confidence in all nine kids who are in the batting lineup putting the ball in play," Vaughn said.
"We've got other kids on the bench who can put the ball in play, too. They just seem to feed off each other. They're just putting it together, and it has been fun watching them play the past three weeks, especially, because we feel like we've been in every single game and we've won a few games."
The split with Dwight moved PBL's record in the SVC to 6-2 and overall record to 9-13.
"Two years ago, we won zero conference games, and last year, we've won four, and now, we've won six. Our goal is to win two more against Clifton Central. We feel like we're moving in the right direction," Vaughn said. "These kids are great to be around every day. There's a lot of laughter. There's a lot of hard work going in. We're just going to battle night-in and night-out."
Jaden Bender singled to right field with two outs in the second inning of game one to send Sindra Gerdes across home plate to give PBL a 1-0 lead.
In the second inning, the Panthers extended their lead to 3-0 as Carly Mutchmore drew a leadoff walk and Lorena Arnett hit a bunt single before Christina White and Baylee Cosgrove each hit an RBI single.
In the fifth inning, PBL scored three runs to extend its lead to 6-2.
White drew a one-out walk and Cosgrove doubled to center field before Maddy Foellner doubled to center field to send both runners home. Gerdes then singled to right field to send Foellner across home plate.
In the sixth inning, Mallorie Ecker drew a walk and Mutchmore singled to right field before before White singled to center field to send Anna Wesslund across home plate.
White and Cosgrove each finished the game hitting 2-for-3 at game one's end.
"It was a big team effort today," Vaughn said. "We had a lot of timely hits today. They just got the job done."
On the mound, Ecker earned the victory in game one, allowing four earned runs on 10 hits and two walks with seven strikeouts through seven innings pitched.
Ecker also took the loss in game two, allowing eight earned runs on 15 hits and three walks with four strikeouts through 3 2/3 innings pitched. Emma Steiner started the second game on the mound, allowing 10 earned runs on 12 hits and three walks with three strikeouts through 2 2/3 innings.
"Emma and Mallory both threw a lot of pitches today," Vaughn said. "I would have liked to see a few more corners called (a strike), but it is what it is. You just play the game. You take what comes."
The Panthers led 5-3 in game two as White and Cosgrove each hit an RBI triple and Foellner -- who finished the game hitting 4-for-5 -- hit a run-scoring single in the first inning.
PBL scored two more runs in the second inning as Muthmore was hit by a pitch and Arnett got on base with a bunt single before they each scored on a steal of home plate.
Dwight scored seven runs in the third inning to take a 10-5 lead via a two-run single by Kayla Kodat, a three-RBI double by Katy Edwards and a two-run homer by Rachel Health.
The Trojans scored four more runs in the fifth inning to extend their lead to 14-6, including an RBI single by Health and a two-run base hit by Kat Harms.
After Alexis Thetard drew a bases-loaded walk to drive in another run, Dwight still had the bases loaded, with a potential game-clinching run in scoring position, but Ecker struck out Jordan Schultz to end the inning.
The Panthers scored 10 runs in the next inning to take a 16-14 lead.
Cosgrove was hit by a pitch and Foellner and Gerdes -- who finished the game hitting 5-for-5 -- singled to load the bases with one out, Cosgrove scored on a wild pitch. Emma Steiner -- who went 3-for-5 -- singled to send Foellner across home plate.
Bender singled to send Gerdes home. After Ecker hit an infield single,
Mutchmore sent Steiner home with a base hit. With the bases loaded, Arnett -- who went 3-for-4 -- drew a walk to send Bender across home plate.
With two outs, Cosgrove doubled to right field to send Mutchmore and Arnett home before Foellner doubled to center field to send White home for the tying run and Cosgrove home for the go-ahead run. Gerdes singled to right field to send Foellner across home plate.
Nora Anderson drew a walk and Kodat and Thetard each singled for Dwight in the bottom of the seventh inning before Kodat was called out via a runner's interference. Thetard stole second base before Schultz hit a ground ball on which Anderson beat out a force-out throw attempt to home plate.
Thetard crossed home plate for the tying run before Edwards doubled and Health hit a walkoff double to center field to send Schultz and Edwards home.
"With the lead there, you're hoping that you play well defensively in that last inning," Vaughn said. "They got a couple of hits. We had a couple of miscues. That's the way the ball bounces."
With one junior starting, and the rest in their freshman or sophomore years, Vaughn said she has hope for the future as her team concludes this regular season with a game at Clifton Central on Tuesday and at home against Clifton Central on Thursday and against Villa Grove on Friday before going on the road to Hoopeston Area for the first round of the IHSA Class 2A regionals on Monday, May 13.
"We'll get back out here Monday and continue to work," Vaughn said. "The future's bright. I think they enjoy playing together. They're working hard and we're having fun, and that's the bottom line. We're going to keep showing up and keep trying to get better."
PBL 7, Dwight 4
DWI 000 111 1 -- 4 10 0
PBL 012 031 x -- 7 9 0
W -- Mallorie Ecker, 7 IP, 10 H, 4 ER, 7 K, 2 BB. L -- Katy Edwards, 6 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 6 K, 5 BB.
Dwight -- Kayla Kodat 1-2, 2 BB. Alexis Thetard 1-4, 2B, RBI. Jordan Schultz 1-4, 3B, R. Katy Edwards 1-4, RBI, R. Isabelle Schultz 1-3. Rachel Health 2-3, 2B, RBI. Danielle Carlson 1-3, 2B, R. Nora Anderson 2-3, 2B, RBI, R.
PBL -- Lorena Arnett 1-4, R. Christina White 2-3, 2B, 2 RBIs, R. Baylee Cosgrove 2-3, 2 2B, RBI, R. Maddy Foellner 1-3, 2B, 2 RBIs. Sindra Gerdes 1-2, RBI, R. Jaden Bender 1-2, RBI. Carly Mutchmore 1-2, R. Anna Wesslund R.
Dwight 18, PBL 16
PBL 320 01(10) 0 -- 16 23 1
DWI 127 040 4 -- 18 27 0
L -- Mallorie Ecker, 3.2 IP, 15 H, 8 ER, 4 K, 3 BB.
PBL (9-13, 6-2) -- Lorena Arnett 3-4, RBI, 3 R. Christina White 2-5, 3B, RBI, 2 R. Baylee Cosgrove 2-3, 3B, 2B, 3 RBIs, 3 R. Maddy Foellner 4-5, 2B, 3 RBIs, 2 R. Sindra Gerdes 5-5, RBI, 2 R. Emma Steiner 3-5, RBI, R. Jaden Bender 2-5, RBI, R. Mallorie Ecker 1-4, RBI. Carly Mutchmore 1-3, RBI, 2 R.
Dwight -- Kayla Kodat 4-4, 2 RBIs, 3 R. Alexis Thetard 2-4, 2 RBIs, R, 2 BB. Jordan Schultz 4-6, RBI, 3 R. Katy Edwards 4-5, 2 2B, 4 RBIs, 3 R. Rachel Health 5-6, HR, 2 2B, 6 RBIs, 2 R. Kat Harms 2-5, 2B, 2 RBIs, 2 R. Danielle Carlson 1-1, R. Isabelle Schultz 2-3, R. Kelly Deterding 1-5. Abby Rodosky 2-3, R. Nora Anderson R.