MAN — As Morgan Cooper and Autumn Hall progressed into the late innings, mowing down batters, piling up the goose eggs and battling in an old fashioned pitcher’s duel, it became quite clear.
A single run or two would end up being the difference.
It certainly was as Cooper helped her own cause by hitting a late inning home run and pitching the Man High School softball team to a 2-0 shutout over Tug Valley in the Class A Region 4 Section 1 softball tournament on Wednesday, June 2 at Man.
Second seed Man improved to 16-2 with the win.
Cooper’s solo homer in the bottom of the sixth inning broke a scoreless tie. Jaclyn Barnette added an RBI double in the sixth for Man.
Cooper went the distance for the Lady Billies, going seven innings and allowing no runs on five hits with 13 strikeouts, no walks and a hit batter. She got the Lady Panthers out in the top of the seventh to preserve the win, raising her record to 16-2 on the season. She has a 0.38 ERA, allowing just six earned runs and 36 hits while striking out 239 in 110 innings of work.
Autumn Hall took the tough luck loss for Tug Valley. She allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits with 10 strikeouts, no walks and two hit batsmen in a six-inning worksheet.
Cassidy Griffey had two hits, including a double, to lead Tug. Haleigh Muncy also doubled.
Man coach Randy Epperly was pleased to get the win and advance into the winner’s bracket of the double-elimination tourney.
“That was post-season play at its finest right there,” Epperly said. “It was nothing to nothing and one team breaks through. With us getting that second run in that last inning that was big because they had a runner on in the seventh. That takes away the bunts. Tug Valley is a good team. If we face them again it will be the same kind of game. We used to have a lot of these 1-0 kind of games just over 10 years ago when we had Marlena (Frye). We had a 1-0 game just like this against Buffalo.”
The left-handed hitting Cooper got Man on the board in the bottom of the sixth as she crushed a Hall pitch well beyond the right field fence and past the road for a solo homer.
It was a bomb, Epperly said.
“That was a blast. That was a no-doubter,” he said.
Cooper, a sophomore and first-year varsity player, is Man’s leading hitter with a .520 average this year. She has five home runs and 16 RBIs with six doubles.
After the blast, Carlee Muncy and Ashlee Tomblin each reached base safely on Tug Valley errors. Barnette’s RBI double to center then gave the Lady Billies the insurance run they were looking for.
Tug Valley threatened in the seventh with Haleigh Muncy’s two-out double. She took third on a wild pitch but was stranded there as Cooper caught Kianna Justice looking to end the game.
Man improved to 2-1 this season against Tug Valley.
The Lady Panthers handed Man one of its two losses this season in a 3-1 victory at Naugatuck. Man won 6-2 in the other meeting during the season at home.
“I expected it to be a close game,” Tug Valley coach Rocky Hall said. “We were hoping that we could have put some runs up on the board but it didn’t work out for us. I made a bad pitch call on the homer. It was a good ballgame. We have a chance to come back in the this tournament. We have some players and we have the pitching to come back through. Hopefully we can do that and turn the tide.”
The Lady Billies had their chances in the bottom of the first inning as Cooper and McKinley Cline led off the game by getting hit by pitches, putting two on and no out.
Man, however, could not get down the bunt and Hall got out of the jam.
“We’ve got to work on our bunting some,” Epperly said. “But we’ll be fine. I would have liked to have gotten a bunt down early and scored early in a game like this. Our girls hung in there. This is a good group and they want each other to do well. We have no hard feelings at all about what goes on in the dugout. They pull for each other. This is one of my better teams as far as cohesiveness goes.”
Hall retired 12 straight batters in the middle innings before an infield single by Kierston Ellis in the fifth.
Hall and Makynly Farley added singles for Tug Valley.
The Lady Panthers put two runners on in the third but Cooper was able to get out of the jam by striking out Emily Hatfield.
In the sixth with the game still scoreless, Griffey doubled with two outs by was gunned down at third base by Man catcher Carlee Muncy trying to steal and ending the inning.
Man also threatened in the bottom of the fifth as Ellis had an infield single, took second on Bailey Muncy’s sacrifice bunt and took third on a wild pitch. Hall then fanned two straight batters to put out the fire.
Way back in the first inning, Hatfield was hit by a pitch and stole second base to get into scoring position but Cooper was able to get a strikeout to close out the frame.
MAN 1, SHERMAN 0: Man advanced to Tuesday’s sectional championship game after beating top seed Sherman, 1-0, on Friday night on the road at Seth.
The win puts No. 2 seed Man (17-2) into the driver’s seat.
One more win and the Lady Billies are in the regional tournament. Since Man is 2-0 in the sectionals, the Lady Billies would have to be beaten twice.
Man was slated to play Buffalo on Tuesday night in the finals.
Morgan Cooper pitched the shutout win for Man in Friday’s game at Sherman, tossing seven innings and allowing no runs on two hits with 11 strikeouts and one walk.
Chloe Treadway took the loss for Sherman (14-4). She allowed one unearned run on five hits with five strikeouts and one walk.
Kierston Ellis scored Man’s only run in the top of the seventh.
The Lady Billies outhit the Tide 5-2.
Ashlee Tomblin was 2-for-3 at the plate. Ellis, Jaclyn Barnett and Bailey Muncy added singles.
Lauren Guthrie and Hailea Skeens had Sherman’s two hits.
Man has won 17 out of 18 games since a season opening loss to Westside.
Buffalo upset Sherman, 6-4, on Monday to eliminate the top-seeded Tide and move on to the sectional finals vs. Man.