By Ben Robinson
COVINGTON — Leading 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning in the sectional tournament against Lehman, Covington coach Dean Denlinger felt it was time to take a chance in order to light a spark in his team.
And with two outs and speedster Lexie Long perched at second base, Denlinger saw a golden opportunity to play some cat-and-mouse with senior Arianna Richards coming to the plate.
“Arianna is such a heady player,” said Denlinger. “She understands the game and situations as well, if not better than anyone. When she came up (to bat), I gave Craig (Maschino) the green light to let Arianna do her thing if she were to get on base.”
Richards came through by connecting on a single that moved Long to third and then the Lady Bucc senior intentionally got caught in a run down between first and second base. Long scored and Richards somehow outmaneuvered the Lehman defense to slide safely into second base.
“Arianna executed the first-and-third situation perfectly,” praised Denlinger. “I know it’s risky to do that with two outs, but you have to consider who was at the plate (batting).”
It was the spark Covington needed as the Lady Buccs broke the game open by plating four runs in the inning.
“I’m a risk taker, but you have to have kids like Arianna you can trust – kids who understand situations and will give you that type of effort,” said Denlinger.
Up to that point, Covington wasn’t playing like Covington. It was stuck in cruise control, leaving runners stranded in each of the first three innings.
Lehman cut the deficit to 2-1 with an run in the top of the fourth on Grace Brandt’s double to left field and had the Cavalier faithful smelling an upset.
But Denlinger knows his team and what buttons to push to get his girls going.
The Lady Buccs pounded out five of their 11 hits in the fourth to break the game open with a 6-1 lead.
“It took us a while to adjust to their pitcher,” said Denlinger. “But we still had eleven hits and three sacs off of her.”
Covington protected its lead by plating a run in the fifth and another in the sixth.
And with the way senior Brooke Gostomsky was hitting her spots, it was a deficit Lehman couldn’t overcome.
“Brooke threw a great game tonight,” praised Denlinger. “That’s a team who hits a lot of home runs and she had them guessing all night. She worked the outside of the plate and had them chasing pitches out of the zone.”
Gostomsky went the distance, allowing just three hits while striking out 12 and walking just two – both walks coming in the first two innings.
“She got stronger as the game went on,” Denlinger said of his ace pitcher.
Even though it took a while for Covington to adjust at the plate, the Lady Buccs did have eleven quiet hits.
Justice Warner, Brooke Gostomsky, Allison Babylon and Sarah Hubbard all had two hits with Warner, Gostomsky and Hubbard all hitting for doubles. Ashley Cecil, Lexie Long and Arianna Richards each had one hit a piece, while Chelsea Ford and Makenna Gostomsky each stole three bases.
“We stole ten bases tonight,” said Denlinger. “I thought the girls did a great job of making the right reads and being aggressive on the bases. As we get deeper into the tournament, we’ll have to take advantage of those type of situations.”
Lehman coach Bill Booth new he was in for a tough game.
“They’re really good,” said Lehman coach Bill Booth. “We cut the lead to 2-1 in the fourth with our only run, but they got a couple of hits and we had a couple of errors, and they scored four times.”
The win boosts Covington’s record to 22-3 on the season as it prepares to play Russia Tuesday in the sectional final at a site to be determined.