The game was a testament, not only to the Lady Miners' resiliency that has trademarked them all season, but also to the gritty determination of both squads to earn a berth in Saturday's Forest Park Semistate against the winner of the Regional 22 matchup between North Posey and Brownstown Central.
"We've been telling the girls the last few days in practice that it had the potential to be a one run game," Linton-Stockton coach Jill Flater said. "...in front of the home crowd, it was just amazing."
Two key plays made the difference for the 24-0 Lady Miners -- and both came late in the contest.
After battling back twice, it took a one-out gamble with the bases loaded, backed up by the most spectacular defensive play of the night.
"A lot of people thought this was going to be a pitching duel," South Putnam (24-2) coach Chris Jones said. "But with two great hitting teams like this, that's not going to happen."
The Lady Eagles jumped to a 3-0 lead on the strength of a two-run double by Jenna Jones in the first and an RBI ground out by the freshman third sacker again in third.
Linton-Stockton finally dented the plate in their half of the third when they evened things up the first time.
A leadoff walk to Savannah Mason and an infield single by Sam Butt set up a two-run double from Stephanie Fougerousse and a run-scoring single from Katie West two-outs later.
The Lady Miners took their first lead of the contest next time up.
After the flamethrowing Fougerousse retired the side in order, Mason and Butt set the table again.
An intentional walk to Fougerousse brought Hali Murray to the dish -- and the junior didn't disappoint Flater.
Her double down the leftfield line brought home Mason and Butt and temporarily gave the Lady Miners their first lead of the contest.
It proved to be a short-lived margin, as South Putnam rallied for a pair of markers in the top of the fifth.
Runs scored on a Linton-Stockton error off the bat of Jenny Thompson and on another run-scoring hit off Jones' bat.
"We're here to play," Fougerousse said. "We're the number one ranked team for a reason and we're going to play like that, we're not going to roll over and die for anybody."
Then came Flater's gamble -- and it paid big dividends.
A one-out single by Butt, a walk to Fougerousse and a bloop single to left by Murray loaded the bases for Darien Huffman.
"It was my first thought (to bunt) because we had our speed (at third base) and very good bunter at bat," Flater said. "I saw the third baseman was drifting back a little bit and I don't think they were expecting it."
Huffman layed down a perfect bunt between the pitcher and catcher and Butt broke for home. The throw was high and she slid under the tag, raising her hands in celebration as the ball trickled away from SP catcher Thompson.
"Darien did a nice job of laying down that bunt and Sam was ready to take off when that ball was down," Flater said. "She was off with the pitch and she was scoring."
South Putnam coach Chris Jones said he wasn't surprised by Flater's decision.
"I expected them to do whatever it took to score," Jones said. "...I felt like they should feel really, really lucky to get by."
After South Putnam starter Brooke Boetjer retired the next two Linton-Stockton hitters, Fougerousse went back to the circle for what would prove to be anything but a routine final inning.
It began with the last of her eight strikeouts, a hit batter and a fielder's choice that advanced the runner and put the second out on the scoreboard.
That left things up to Jones again -- and ultimately left fielder Courtney Barnes.
"I felt good about our girls," Jones said. "Until that girl caught the ball in left field I thought we were going to win."
Fougerousse called the left side of her defense together and told them she was going to pitch Jones inside, which ultimately meant the ball would come their way if it was hit.
"Coach told me to play the line, she'd been hitting the ball to the line the whole time," Barnes said. "She hit a flyball in fair territory and I went up and caught it."
Jones slashed a fastball toward the leftfield line and Barnes reacted.
"When the ball left the bat I was thinking that I had to get the ball, it was the winning catch," Barnes said. "I didn't want it to hit the ground.
"I pretty much ran with all my might and got the ball."
She slid to a halt and was immediately joined by her teammates in celebration.
"We've had a few games in the season where we've had some scares -- a few teams maybe jumped out on top of us -- this is only the third time we've been behind all year," Flater said. "To be in situations like this-- it's a huge advantage for us, and hopefully we'll use it to our advantage and that it will prepare us for this weekend."
The Lady Miners are slated to play the second game of the day at Forest Park Saturday at approximately 12:30 p.m. following the first contest between Frankton and Switzerland County.
"Did we give them one, yeah we did," Jones said in retrospect. "If we play them again, I'd like to.
"But that happens and I wish them well."
IHSAA Class 2A Regional 23
South Putnam 201 020 0 -- 5 7 3
Linton-Stockton 003 201 x -- 6 9 3
Brooke Boetjer and Jenny Thompson; Stephanie Fougerousse and Darien Huffman.
WP -- Fougerousse
LP -- Boetjer.
2B -- Jenna Jones (SP), Stephanie Fougerousse (L), Hali Murray (L).