FAIRFIELD — A play decided by a matter of centimeters resulted in the only run Mia Coots allowed Friday afternoon. A distance no greater gave her team the momentum it needed to take the lead right back.

An inning and a half after giving up a bunt single to Lawrence’s Kaylee Elkins that would result in the tying run, Coots, the Nokomis softball team’s star pitcher, found herself up at the plate. With two outs in the top of the sixth of the Warriors’ 3-1 win over the Bulldogs, the sophomore connected on a pitch that she sent down the third-base line and into left field.

Melissa Walker of Nokomis swings at a pitch during the seventh inning of a softball game against Lawrence on Friday in Fairfield. Nokomis improved to 7-0 with the win Mike Mandell/Morning Sentinel

It was a hit that was fair by the slimmest of margins. Had the ball struck a blade of grass any further to the left, Coots would have been back at home plate still looking to give her team its first hit of the game. Instead, Coots’ teammates followed it with the offensive breakthrough needed to complement the Nokomis ace’s standout performance in the circle.

Coots’ double broke up a no-hit bid by Lawrence’s Sage Reed and sparked a two-out rally that made the difference in Friday’s Class B North clash in Fairfield. The Warriors remained unbeaten with the two-run victory, which came as Coots threw a 16-strikeout, one-hitter in the circle.

Nokomis took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Cam King walked on four pitches, reached second on a passed ball, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a dropped third strike. That would be enough to keep the Warriors (7-0) in front for three innings as Coots struck out the first nine batters she faced.

“I’m not going to give away the full scouting report in case other teams read this, but there’s one pitch that’s working for me really good right now,” Coots said. “I basically threw it every pitch today. If something’s working for you, there’s no need to change it.”


Reed, though, kept the Bulldogs (4-2) within striking distance as she sent Nokomis down in order in the second, third and fourth innings. Then, after Elkins beat the throw by a mere split-second on her bunt single in the bottom of the fourth, the Lawrence sophomore stole second and third and went home on an errant throw to tie the game.

Reed took her no-hit bid into the top of sixth before Coots broke it up with her double down the left-field line. Meg Watson then gave Nokomis the lead with a hard single to right and advanced to second on the throw, and Hope Brooks followed by giving the Warriors an insurance run with a single to center.

“I think they finally relaxed,” Nokomis head coach J.D. McLellan said of his team’s sixth-inning rally. “We knew this was a big game, and I think that got to them a little bit, but when they started relaxing a little more and realized that they can hit her, it made a big difference.”

Members of the Nokomis softball team cheer on from the dugout during the sixth inning of a softball game against Lawrence on Friday in Fairfield. Nokomis defeated Lawrence 3-1 on Friday as pitcher Mia Coots struck out 16 batters. Mike Mandell/Morning Sentinel

Coots would retire the last six batters she faced to seal the win. Reed struck out 13 batters and walked just two for Lawrence, which fell to defeat for the second time in three games.

Watson, whose RBI single ended up being the game winner, has become known for her clutch hits over the past two years. She crushed a three-run home run to left field to break the game open for Nokomis in last year’s Class B North semifinal showdown with Ellsworth, and the junior’s big-time hit Friday gave the Warriors a lead they would never relinquish. 

“I just put the bat on the ball and see what happens,” said Watson, who is also Coots’ catcher. “Wherever it goes, it goes, and today, it went right up the middle. … Our whole team worked hard, and we stuck with it and stepped up.”

Entering Friday, Nokomis had been averaging more than 10 runs per game over its first six games. Although a pitchers’ duel this time was a bit of a change of pace for the Warriors, McLellan was pleased to see his team come through on an afternoon where offense didn’t come easy.

“That was huge, and it’s great to see whenever you can be in a game like that and pull through,” McLellan said. “We’ve got some tough games coming up against Hermon and Cony, both fairly decent teams, and hopefully, we can get the bats back going.”

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