WINTHROP — The first batter of the game Thursday, Lisbon’s Giana Russo roped a hard-hit single into center field. The top four in the Greyhounds’ order then proceeded to go 0 for its next 12, letting the bottom half of the lineup provide any production it could get against Winthrop senior pitcher Layne Audet.

But with two outs in the eighth inning, Russo’s whip-quick stroke came through. The junior catcher drilled a two-out, two-strike offering down the left field line to snap a tie and lift Lisbon to a 6-5 win over Winthrop in a crucial late-season Mountain Valley Conference game with massive playoff seeding implications. The victory was the first for Lisbon (10-5) this season against a team sitting above them in the Class C South regional standings and came just four days after a 10-run loss at home to the very same Winthrop squad.

“In that eighth inning I was just like, ‘Have some fun. Let’s just have some fun.’ That’s all that matters is having some fun,” Russo said. “We got blown out by them a couple of days ago, so we really had nothing to lose.”

The loss snapped a nine-game winning streak for Winthrop (12-4). The four Rambler losses this season have come by a combined total of four runs.

The winning rally began innocuously enough for the Greyhounds, with Carly Drischler legging out an infield single after Winthrop catcher Hanna Caprara opted to field a spinning pop-up in front of home plate that appeared to have enough juice to have otherwise rolled into foul territory. Two outs later, with Drischler still standing at first, Lisbon coach Terri Tlumac had Drischler steal on a second-strike pitch from Audet to Russo.

Russo then delivered the go-ahead knock.

“It’s funny, because Giana said, ‘Oh, did I miss that sign?’ and I had to tell her that the sign wasn’t for her,” Tlumac said. “At that point as a coach, I have to take that risk. Sometimes mentally not involving them in certain situations just allows them to focus only on the at-bat. Sometimes them not knowing is the best way to do it.”

“This is definitely a peak for us,” Russo said. “We just came together and the chemistry was great. We pulled it out, and it was awesome.”

Winthrop coach Chuck Gurney second-guessed his decision to pitch to Russo, even with his ace ahead in the count. He’d already once issued Russo an intentional walk, to load the bases as part of Lisbon’s three-run third inning.

“I debated when the runner stole second, even with two strikes on that kid, I still contemplated putting (Russo) on,” Gurney said. “She’s one of the best hitters in the league. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. She got us.”

Freshman pitcher Erica Hill worked around a two-out single in the bottom of the eighth, needing just five pitches in the frame to seal the victory.

“I get a lot of confidence from the girls on the team,” said Hill, who relied on a devastating changeup to keep the Ramblers off balance and get the ball in play for a very good defense behind her. “It was a bit of work in the beginning, but it’s been pretty good lately. But I know my team is going to back me up and get it for me. I can trust them.”

That the game got to extra innings at all was both remarkable and a testament to the offensive capabilities of a pair of playoff-bound teams.

Sarah Haggerty’s two-run single helped Lisbon take a 3-0 lead after two innings, and Winthrop tied the score in the fourth with a rally capped by Samantha Allen’s two-run double to center field. Lisbon took one-run leads in both the sixth and seventh innings, only to have the Ramblers scrap back each time. Caprara (3 for 4) laced a run-scoring single to center field in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game at 5-5 with Winthrop down to its final out.

The Ramblers likely never should have been in the position to play beyond the scheduled seven innings.

In the sixth, Lisbon took a 4-3 lead with back-to-back two-out hits. Winthrop center fielder Lydia Rice broke in on Joanna Turner’s fly ball, and it sailed over Rice’s head for an RBI triple which plated Drischler (2 for 4, 3 runs scored).

“This game had a playoff atmosphere to it,” Gurney said.

“Our season has been of that nature, where we have some strong innings and strong games and then we’ve had some really interesting innings and interesting games. It leaves you wondering if that’s the same team you’ve been seeing,” said Tlumac whose team has won seven of its last nine. “Today was one of those days we played for all eight innings and kept on battling.”

 


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