With her team trailing Science Hill 1-0 and down to her last strike with two outs in the seventh inning, senior Hannah Montoya hit a game-tying, inside-the-park home run to the corner of right field.
The Lady ’Blazers later won 2-1 in the 10th inning after the game went to an international tiebreaker rule and courtesy runner Hannah Cutshall scored off a throwing error.
“Two outs, I knew I had to get on (base) some way,” Montoya said about the game-saving hit. “I didn’t know it would be an inside-the-park home run. When I saw the right fielder dive, I just knew I had to book it to home. There wasn’t any thoughts of stopping. I knew I had to score or the game would be over.”
Science Hill head coach Jerry Higgins was perturbed the game wasn’t already over. He believed a third strike should have been called the pitch before. He even called out the home plate umpire for not making the call.
“The game should have have been over in the seventh inning -- strike three,” Higgins said. “I’ll give Hannah Montoya credit. She came up with a big hit, but that came after she should have been called out. The coaches knew it. The field umpire knew it. Everybody knew it, but Michael Weaver didn’t call her out.”
It was the second time this season Boone defeated Science Hill in extra innings. The Lady ’Blazers, who wrapped up the No. 2 seed in the upcoming District 1-AAA tournament, improved to 24-12 overall and 9-2 in the Big Seven Conference. The Lady ’Toppers fell to 16-14 and 7-3.
In addition to Montoya’s heroics, senior pitcher McKenzi Ferguson battled through a sore shoulder to strike out 17 batters. Earlier in the day, Ferguson was after wondering if she would pitch at all. She was scheduled to start against Crockett game on Monday, but was unable to go. Then she got off to a shaky start in the first inning against Science Hill, giving up a RBI single to Vanessa Elliott and walking Abby Higgins with the next at-bat.
After a visit from Boone head coach Rick Wagner, Ferguson finally settled down and recorded the first of her 17 strikeouts.
“I honestly didn’t know if I was going to throw today,” Ferguson said. “But, it was Senior Day and I knew I had to. About the seventh or eighth inning it started hurting again, but I just pushed through it.”
Science Hill countered Ferguson’s strong performance with Emma Martindale and Elliott combining to hold Boone to just five hits.
Martindale held the Lady ’Blazers off the scoreboard in the first inning despite lead-off batter Allison Littleton doubling and then reaching third on a sacrifice bunt. Later, Martindale worked her way out of bases-loaded situations in the third and fifth innings, as did Elliott facing bases-loaded in the eighth inning.
On the offensive end, Science Hill had eight hits, led by Abby Higgins going 2-for-4 which included advancing runner Meredith Wright to third in the top of the 10th inning. Megan Guinn and Megan Maupin each added 2-for-5 efforts for the Lady ’Toppers .
Montoya went 2-for-4 to lead Boone, although her heroics weren’t limited to the plate. She made a handful of spectacular plays in the field that helped keep the Lady ’Toppers off the board.
Her head coach marveled at how Montoya came through in the game’s biggest at-bat.
“Just a player who has been such a big part of this program, two strikes and two outs, (she) showed what she’s really made of,” Wagner said. “It was an outside pitch, a great pitch. She just reached out there and drove it to right field. The right fielder tried to make a great play and it just got by her. On this field, there is only one spot that could happen. That’s that right field corner. Nowhere else, you get a home run out of it.”
It set up a familiar scenario where the Lady ’Blazers rallied to hand Science Hill another heartbreaking loss. After the game, Boone recognized its five seniors -- Haley Wagner, Meredith Good, Littleton, Montoya and Ferguson. As a group, they’ve been part of 144 wins, three conference championships, three district championships, and one state runner-up finish.
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