"Every time I looked up, they were hitting a triple," North Putnam coach George Pearson said.
Although the Cougars came one swing from tying a game in which they had been down 5-1 in the sixth inning, their efforts came up short Tuesday night, with a 5-4 loss to Tri-West in the opening game of sectional.
"Tri-West is a good ball club. I tip my hat to them," Pearson said. He added they have a tough pitcher and some good hitters.
The triple trouble began early for North starter Brook Miller. After a strikeout from the leadoff hitter, Lydia MacKinnon took a ball over the right fielder's head for a three-bagger. Two batters later, Cindy Bondy singled MacKinnon home. Another triple from Jenna Cloud made the score 2-0 after a half inning.
After a scoreless bottom of the first for the Cougars, Miller got into her groove for a few innings. Between the second and fourth, she allowed just two base runners on two walks.
North Putnam got on the board in the bottom of the second with a little help from Tri-West. Ashley Doyle reached on an error, then advanced to third on a sacrifice and a groundout by Logan Doyle and Leah Crosby, respectively. A wild pitch from the Bruins' Lacie Woodall gave the Cougars their first run.
The big hit started again for the Bruins in the sixth. Mackenzie Stirling led off the fifth with a triple and was driven in on a single from Kala Hovermale. The scenario repeated itself in the sixth when Bondy led off with a triple and was driven in by Maria Crossley. They added a fifth run when Crossley came home on the Cougars' only error of the night.
Down 5-1, the Cougar bats finally began to come alive in the bottom of the sixth. Miller led off with a single, then Alyssa Simpson reached on a fielder's choice. Consecutive singles from Ashley and Logan Doyle loaded the bases for the Cougars. Leah Crosby then drove in Simpson on a sacrifice to make the score 5-2.
Still needing runs and finding his team with two outs, Pearson called on a freshman reserve in a very big spot. Pinch-hitter Ashley Curry came through big for her team, dropping a single into short center field. The hit drove in two, and brought the Cougars within a run after six.
Entering the bottom of the seventh, with the top of the lineup at the plate, things looked promising for the Cougars. They looked less so after Woodall retired the first two batters.
But finding themselves against the wall, the Cougars made one last charge. A Miller grounder dribbled between the Bruin third baseman's legs to put her on first. A Simpson single and ensuing fielding error put runners at second and third.
The game ended there, though, as Ashley Doyle struck out looking.
"I'm real proud of the girls. We got down 5-1, but then we were one swing away," Pearson said.
Eight different Cougars collected one hit each. Curry led the way with two runs batted in. Leah Crosby added another.
On the mound, Miller threw a complete game, allowing five runs on eight hits, two walks and one hit batsman. She struck out eight Bruins. For Tri-West, Woodall allowed four runs on eight hits and one walk in seven innings of work. She struck out five.
North Putnam finished its season with a 19-7 mark. Monday's loss was the final game for Miller, Simpson and Chelsea Greene. The coach could not say enough about his seniors.
"I've got a group of seniors who are going to be sorely missed," Pearson said. He called the girls good players, good leaders and good kids. He said they were always "pleasant to be around."
The coach also knows, though, this is the way of coaching high school sports. His team will be back next year, and they will take the field with a new group.
"Every year we lose seniors, and every year we have to replace them," Pearson said.
The Bruins will face another Putnam County team in Cloverdale on Wednesday night at 5:30 p.m.
Sectional First Round
Tri-West 200 012 0 -- 5 8 4
North Putnam 010 003 0 -- 4 8 1
Woodall and MacKinnon (TW). Miller and L. Doyle (NP).
W -- Woodall
L -- Miller
3B -- Mackinnon, Cloud, Stirling, Bondy (TW)
North Putnam finished the season with a 19-7 record.