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Liberty rallies from 6-run deficit to upset Kettle Run in softball

Monday, Apr. 21 | By Jeff Malmgren
Liberty celebrates the game-winning run as the Eagles defeated Kettle Run, 9-8, Monday. --Photo by Doug Stroud
They were both wrong.

Kettle Run coach Tori Hill thought the fly ball would land beyond the fence to give Liberty a game-winning home run.

Liberty senior Sadie Rynestad thought the fly ball would land in the center fielder's glove to seal a Kettle Run win.

But little happened as expected Monday, including that final play during the bottom of the seventh inning in Bealeton.

The fly ball, hit to deep right-center field by Rynestad, bounced off of Jasmine Webster's glove barely in front of the fence, allowing a pair of Liberty base runners to score with two outs and clinch a 9-8 upset win over the Kettle Run Cougars.

"We'll take it," Eagles coach Charlie Padgett said. "I'm glad [Rynestad] was the one there" in that situation.

Now "we're trying to get on a roll and turn [the season] around a little bit," he said.

The victory felt momentous for the Eagles (3-5), who entered the game with only two wins while Kettle Run (6-3) had won six consecutive games. Nonetheless, they rallied from a 6-0 deficit against the Cougars to improve their Evergreen District record to 2-3. Kettle Run fell to 3-2 in the district.

"I feel like we're going to have that confidence now that we need," Rynestad said.

"We're full of talent," Liberty assistant coach Ryan Washington said. "All we needed was this one game to show [the girls] what they're capable of."

The Eagles entered the seventh inning facing an 8-7 deficit, but Gracie Pierce led off with a single and Leslie Bourgeois later followed with a one-out single. So, following a fly out, Rynestad came to the plate with two outs and runners on first and third base.

She hit the first pitch the opposite way toward the right-center field gap.

"I was just trying to poke at it and get trying to get it in the hole" in the infield, she said. "It went a lot farther than I thought it was going to."

The ball was tough to track down for Webster, who had to run toward the gap as the ball approached the fence. She got under the ball in time, but it appeared to hit the web of her glove before popping out.

"I was just jogging and watching her," Rynestad said. "She's a good player. I really did" think she'd catch it.

"We thought it was gone," Hill said. "I was shocked to see Jasmine get a glove on it."

Along with facilitating that pair of runs scored on the error, Rynestad had three RBIs in the game on 1-for-4 hitting. She showed no ill effects after missing Liberty's previous two games with concussion symptoms.

Rynestad also played well defensively as Liberty's center fielder. The Eagles entered the fifth inning with a 7-6 lead and avoided disaster in that inning because she helped throw out a pair of Cougars at the plate.

Kettle Run's Carissa Brizzi tied the game, 7-7, by hitting a single, taking two bases on a sacrifice bunt and then scoring on a throwing error. Webster followed with a one-out walk, but Rynestad later threw her out at home on an Oliva Murray single scooped up in right-center field.

The Cougars' Kendall Penn then reached base on an error and advanced Murray to third. Kaitlin Munda followed with a double to left-center field, but only Murray scored on the play as Penn got thrown out at home on a Rynestad-Boureois-Justine Sprouse relay throw.

"Any time you can do that it kills the momentum," Padgett said of the outs at home.

As a result, Kettle Run entered the bottom of the seventh with only an 8-7 lead, setting up Rynestad's heroics at the plate.

The Cougars actually had four runners tagged out between third base and home plate during the game, including one in the top of the sixth inning. Also fitting the "unexpected" theme of the game, Kettle Run's ace pitcher, Munda, had a rare rough outing. She lasted only 1 1/3 innings, allowing five earned runs on three hits and six walks.

Those walks seemed to be byproducts of a trio of illegal pitches called on Munda during the second inning. The umpires ruled that Munda's anchor foot had come off the ground during her pitching motion.

"My foot, I don't drag it completely sometimes," said Munda, an all-Region II selection last season. "It wasn't called as much last year. … I try not to let it get in my head, but when it's over and over, it somewhat does."

Munda didn't allow a walk during the first inning but, in the second inning, the umpires called an illegal pitch for the first time. Paige Pender was awarded first base on a walk with the illegal pitch coming on a full count. Liberty's ensuring batter hit a single and then Munda walked five consecutive batters.

Brizzi relieved Munda in the second inning, but the Eagles ended up narrowing their deficit to 6-5 despite only two hits in that inning.

"The turning point in the game was when Kaitlin had to come out because Kaitlin's a great pitcher," Rynestad said. "We got that fire. We saw they were frustrated."

Rynestad plays on the same travel softball team as Munda, so she could also sympathize with the Kettle Run pitcher after the illegal pitch calls.

"I feel for her because that's really tough for a pitcher," Rynestad said. "That can mess up anyone's game. … .. All you're thinking about is keeping your foot on the ground."

Munda has struggled with her pitching motion during a couple games this season, mostly notably in a 4-3 win over Fauquier on April 8. Umpires called her for nearly a dozen illegal pitches in that game.

"It's tough to work through something like that in the middle of the season, but she's been working on it and hopefully we can get past it," Hill said. But "the whole county knows it now. I'm pretty sure the secret's out."

Padgett said he did not speak to the umpires pregame about Munda's recent tendency.

Despite the Cougars' pitching struggles, they had opportunities to pull away from Liberty thanks to 17 hits in the game. Kettle Run stranded seven runners, however, in addition to their four runners thrown out between third base and home plate.

Forrest Poland led Kettle Run with three RBIs on 2-for-4 hitting, while Munda had two RBIs on 1-for-3 hitting. Brizzi went 2-for-3 with two runs, while Penn went 2-for-5 with two runs, Debbie Stuart went 3-for-4 with a run, Shelby Stegmaier went 2-for-4 with two runs and an RBI. Claire Miclat and Murray also had two hits each.

Brizzi took the loss for Kettle Run despite allowing only two earned runs (four total) on seven hits and three walks while striking out three over 5 2/3 innings.

Diane McDaniel led Liberty with two runs, two walks, an RBI and a stolen base on 1-for-3 hitting, while Bourgeois went 2-for-4 with two runs. Emily Fitzwater went 2-for-4 with an RBI, while Taylor Davidson went 2-for-4 with a double and a run. Pierce and Sprouse each scored twice and had one hit.

Typically Liberty's starting pitcher, Davidson made a rare relief appearance Monday and got the win after allowing four runs (one earned) on 10 hits and a walk while striking out four over six innings. Jerrin Garnett started the game, but allowed four earned runs on seven hits in the first inning.

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